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November 18, 2008

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Bourjaily: The Ones That Got Away

Because my wife compulsively spends all our money on heat, electricity and similar luxuries (Do my kids really need new shoes? Couldn’t they just wear my old ones?), my gun fund is perennially tapped out. As a result, cool guns at great prices get away from me all the time. The latest was just last week. My local store took in a nice older 870 trap gun in excellent condition with well-figured wood and cut checkering. They priced it at $350. By the time I got home, figured out what gun I would trade for it and went back, it was gone.

Occasionally I get lucky. For years I was fascinated by the idea of the Browning Double Automatic. I wanted one desperately even though I had never actually seen one. In a stroke of serendipity, the same day I received a modest inheritance check, not one but two Double Autos magically appeared at my local store. I bought one of them, a Twelvette, loved it, shot a bunch of roosters with it, then foolishly sold it. Last year, I turned a windfall into an SKB 100 that I was able to grab before anyone else saw it.  At $500, it wouldn’t have sat unsold for more than a day or two.

All gun lovers have sob stories about the ones that got away. Share yours. It’s good therapy. On the other hand, if you’ve lucked into bargains on guns you always wanted and would like to tell us about it here, you can do that, too.


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Tony C.

I know full well the luxuries that wives like that deplete gun funds.

I live there too.

My best deal was an Armsport 20-gauge over & under bought at Wal Mart for $300, brand new. I'd been wanting an over & under for a year, but everything I found was $800 to $1,000. This was 10 or 15 years ago, maybe longer.

I bought the 0&U 20 as soon as I saw it. Someone standing at the gun counter scoffed about it being a 20 instead of a 12, but I killed a bunch of critters with it.

I once got a pair of Canada geese with a single shot from it. It was pure death on anything that flew.

I got in a tight several years later and let the little 20 go for $350. It's the only time I ever traded or sold a gun and didn't lose money.

Mine had been imported from Italy, had beautiful light wood, selective triggers and game scenes engraved on the silver receiver.

The only drawback was the trigger was a little squishy and it was choked I/C and Modified rather than having choke tubes.

I've looked for one to replace it, but have never seen another like it and certainly nothing comparable to the price.

It was a cheap over & under, i know, but I sure enjoyed toting it for birds, waterfowl and even squirrels and rabbits.

Chad Love

Two come to mind, both shotguns.

If I could only go back to my senior year in college I would have found a way, any way, to buy an absolutely pristine pre-war 12-gauge Superposed with a solid rib, long-tang, round knob (I think all the pre-war supers were RNLT) and wood to die for. The shop wanted $500 for it, which was about $500 more than I had at the time. I briefly thought about selling my spleen to fund it but couldn't figure out a way to do the surgery myself without risking that whole death thing. It sold a few days later and I cried for days. I've never seen one as nice as that one for anywhere near the money, although I did almost pawn my soul for a way-underpriced '57 vintage pigeon-grade Super a few years later. I couldn't get nearly enough for my soul to cover the cost of the gun however, and that one sold, too.
I still don't own a super, but I'm still looking for "the one."

My second was one I'm still physically kicking myself for. I got into older Berettas, the BL's and S56-57 series guns a few years ago and ended up with a BL-4 20 and a BL-5 12. A guy in OKC had a mint, in-the-box, drool-worthy wood, top-of-the-line 20 gauge BL-6 he would sell me for $1700.
Bl-6's in 12 are very rare, Bl-6 20s are seen about as often as Joe Biden's mystery Beretta.
I had never seen one, nor have I seen one since. I just hope the SOB who did have the $1700 is enjoying it...


.410 Winchester Model 42.
Owner wanted $225, I knew I could get it for $200 if I waited him out.
Then he (and his gun) left town.
Kicking myself ever since.
Console myself collecting Model 12's.


Passed on a NIB Browning Model 12 repro in 28-ga for $600.

Like Chad I spent two-days trying to figure a way to buy that shotgun and still pay my mortgage.

With my vices I should have gone to law school instead turning pro musician with tinnitus and challenged auditory nerves.

Chad - I finally got my Superposed, after decades of pining. It was so worth the price, fixed chokes and all. Sold it (along with my Merkel) to keep my business going. Now I am pining again. Would absolutely love to find an early one with a twin double trigger ... or even a plain old double trigger. A friend was lucky enough to pick up a 28ga Superposed earlier this year. Lucky bum. Get it while you can.

Went to my favorite gun shop. One of the guys said they just took in a nice Winchester 88 .264 in trade. Would be putting it up for a very fair price. I said that won't last long. Went home ... called myself stupid a few times ... went back the next day and it was already gone. Same place had a really nice Model 12 20ga with factory improved choke and the large corncob fore end. By the time I decided to buy it someone else already had. I have a tear in my eye.

Dr. Ralph

Not exactly the same but I do have one that got away... Ithaca Model 37 Featherweight I got for my birthday that was stolen.

I saw a beautiful M-1 Garand on a man's wall two days ago and asked him where he got it. Gun show in Wisconson for $425- in 1999. During the assault weapon ban I said? That's not an assault weapon he answered as we both laughed out loud. Offered him $500- on the spot and he said you can get them cheap! He got on the computer and the cheapest one he could find was $899- on up to $2600-. Maybe if I'd just offered him $600-...

Ken B.

I still kick myself for not buying the NIB Remington 700 Mountain Rifle in .257 Roberts. The dealer wanted to get rid of it and included numerous boxes of Sierra bullets and a set of RCBS dies. All for $300 in ~1994!


During my regular pawnshop rounds I found a SKB 280 in 20 gauge for $325,but ... some nimrod had removed the original stock, which was straight grip, and bent the lower tang so he could mount the god-awfullest half baked maple stock with a rollover checkpiece and rose wood grip cap!

I bought on speculation and after scouring the US and Canada via the internet, and after aa couple of false starts, found a generous soul with an original Model 280 stock he'd removed and had duplicated in a nicer grade of walnut for his own gun. Spent many hours scraping off the original epoxy finish on my the new/old stock and forearm, oh so carefully bent the lower tang back to original shape, and now have a great grouse gun that's also a blast for informal skeet.

Chad Love

So I walked into my local shop this afternoon after describing my Super troubles above and there was a 1954-vintage pigeon-grade Superposed just going up on the consignment rack.
Strange timing, that. If I only had the two grand it costs...

WA Mtnhunter

I found a Savage 94 single .410 just like the one I traded for a 12 ga. back in 1962. I thought the little .410 too wimpy for a 13 year old and shells were twice as much as a 12ga. Besides, I could buy 12 ga. shells EACH at the hardware store! Who ever had the money for a whole box? Used to pick up coke bottles off the side of the roads for the deposit to buy shells.

Anyway, I found that little 94 at the local gun show in mint condition for $150 and tried to talk the guy down to $120, but he would only go $140. You know the rest of the story, when I went back an hour later....gone. My brother found me one this summer in a pawn shop in near NIB but the stock has been refinished and looks better than any new Savage circa 1963.

There's a shootin' iron for a grandson.

I also let a like new Savage 99 in .358 Winchester slip thru my hands a few years ago. The guy complained about how hard it kicked and ammo being hard to find and expensive. I hesitated...gone. Price one of those baby's these days! I have one now in good shape (but nowhere near NIB) that I found for $240.

Jim in Mo

Chad Love,
Wait a minute, are you willing to pour your soul out later -again- about the one that got away? Divources aren't cheap, I know, but if you like it buy it. What are you a man or a mouse?
Sighned, Single but Happy


I've had a couple. Biggest one, had a friend who worked at Dunham's Sporting Goods - smaller chain and not much on firearms. He was a manager.

He said a guy walked in with an old box, he wanted 300.00 for the gun inside it. Said he got it from his father after he passed and was tight on money. Inside the box was a never been fired, still in the cosmoline, Browning BAR.

He said he tried calling me to see if I wanted it, but I didn't answer my phone.

Jim in Mo



I could relay numerous stories along these lines since I used to be a gun trader by hobby because I couldn't make a living at it. Once I was visiting an old friend who collected M-12's (had two new in the box when he died this past summer) plus various other Winchesters. Once on a brief visit he showed me several M-42's. One of them was a standard grade in like new condition which I offered to buy but was turned down. After sitting for a while chatting about various guns and hunting I got up to leave. Old Charlie told me to look behind the kitchen door. There stood the M-42 I had liked so well. "Take the damned thing with you he said, they are not good for anything but looking at". I told him I couldn't take it because something might happen to it or it might get scratched, or it might get stolen. He answered "I don't care, it's your gun." I still have it... unscratched.


About thirty years ago I wondered into a Walmart down south and noticed a Colt in the pistol case. It turned out to be a like new Woodsman Match Target priced at $175.00. I dashed home to get my checkbook and returned to the store. You know the rest. About a week later I walked back into the same store and there lay a like new S & W M-18 for $125.00. Same trip home and same result. I always took my credit card or checkbook back into that Walmart for another year about every two weeks but never saw a Colt or Smith appear on its shelves again.
On another occassion a friend stopped by my house to offer me a Ithaca (SKB) Model 200 in excellent condition. I knew I had $100 in my pocket but figured he wanted much more so I turned him down. A few days later I ran into this guy in town and inquired as to the fate of the double barrel. He said he finally sold it but it was tough because everyone wants semi-autos. I asked what he got for it to which he replied $100.00

Jeremy Jones

In 1996 a buddy of mine needed some cash and sold me his Colt Anaconda 6" stainless .44 mag for $225.00! He had only fired less than 50 rounds in it. I have come across a few deals in my life but lost out on a whole lot more.


In '63,I was visiting with an old friend in his gun shop, when a man came in and asked if anyone wanted to buy a 1911, which he had in his hand. My friend asked how much, and the reply was $15. My friend said he could not afford it, at which time I said I'd like to look at it. Well, turns out he had some other stuff to throw into the bargain, a dozen mags, two steel ammo cans of hardball, two holsters, one shoulder rig, a new barrel bushing and about 20 boxes of mil. ammo still in the army boxes. As I was loading all this in my car, my friend came out and said some terrible things about my ancestry as well as me personally, implying that I not cheated the poor man, but I had also undercut him. A few days later we took the old gun to the range, and found out why there was a new bushing in the deal, because a 2' group at 50' was the best it would shoot.
My friend installed the bushing and lapped it in and shot a group measuring 3.25 the first group. Of course he had been an army drill instructor for the last 10yrs. before his retirement. I never got to be that good a shot with it, but I did have a lot of fun trying. I shot all the ammo and sold the gun and one holster with 3 mags for $50, three years later. Probably worth $1000 today.


Oh my, therapy huh? There are tears in my eyes as I write this already. I truly have a poet’s soul when it comes for great guns that I've lost over the years. I'll go through chronological order just to make this easy on my aging brain.

The first was a model 94 trapper, my dad gave it to me as my first deer rifle which I loved greatly, I carried it for many years even though I couldn't hit anything with it I eventually made the normal evolution to scope mounted rifles and I traded it back to my Dad for 100 dollars and moved on to a 308. Well that little rifle made it to my little brother and sister who both used it and sold it back for the same 100 dollars to my dad. I think its more nostalgia than anything as I look at that little gun sitting in my Dads gun cabinet and even though I've tried (he's turned down 600 on it) my Dad just smiles and says he'll pass it on to the grandkids! DOH!!

The second was a model 700 in 7mm I shot one of the nicer bucks I have ever shot at 440 yards with it. (one fence row to another) the gun would shoot ANY brand of ammo into 1 inch at 100 it was a phenomenal, light, good looking rifle, my first in Stainless. I had two rifles at the time and I went with the bigger 300 Win Mag in a 700 Sendero, which would do the same but about 3-4 pounds heavier. Great shooter!

The last would be my Browning Bar in 300. That was a great shooter also, shot deer at very long range with it. I also shot 4 in one sitting with it during a cull hunt. (When I was very younger and didn't know better) My first semi auto, semi fancy gun, it left because the fore arm had been put on green and had dried with looseness that I couldn't get out which annoyed the crap out of me. I eventually traded that gun and some cash for an 83 CJ 7 which I've had a lot of fun in and still own. So out of all those I still have something to show for it.

There are others I would have liked to have had back an M-1 Carbine of my Grandmothers, Browning A-5 of my Grandfathers when he was a boy. 410 Winchester single shot, first shotgun, and some others that I truly enjoyed but none that I sit back around the campfire and reminisce about.

My therapy, one that my Wife TRUELY loves is collecting guns. I mean hard core too. I've got everything from a 17 HMR to a 50BMG and I love it. I hope to pass mine on to 'the Grandkids' someday too, they'll just need a forklift to come get em!


Jack Ryan

Just about every gun I ever sold, I eventually wished I had it back.

Beyond that there's a couple. Most of all I had a S&W Model 59, a stainless steel 9mm, with the double stacked 15 shot magazines. It was pretty sweet but most of all it belonged to my brother. Like a dummy I traded it in on something else and almost immediatlye wished I had it back. Now my brother has passed on, I really wish I had that gun.

Paul Brinkley

A very good friend with cancer pulled into my drive one day. I was outside so I walked over to his truck and said hello. He handed me his nickle Colt Python and asked me to hold onto it for him. With tears in my eyes I told him I didnt want it, but he said he would not be here long, and if he wanted it back, he knew where it was. Years later, when the auto repair business took it's first real dive back in 2003, I had to sell it to feed my family. I was down for a while, but Ron's voice echoed in my head and I could hear him say "Hell son, family comes first". I miss you sir.


Ya'll help me out here. As far as I know, guns are the only thing you can collect, use and enjoy, that actually grows in value.
A pickup truck wouldn't hold all the guns I've bought and sold; I can't think of a one that I'm glad I don't have now.
I think you reach an economic point in your life where you no longer have to get rid of one to get another. (working class guns)
I know guys who have every gun they've ever owned; seems to me those folks haven' had the opportunity to enjoy as many different "friends".
I'm glad to have owned the guns I've let go; but now have reached that point I don't have to sell one to get another.


German Luger engraved with SS insignias etc. that my grandfather took off an officer he took prisoner at a concentration camp in WWII. My aunt gave it to her fourth husband who she was married to for 1 and a half years. I'll never see it again.


Last spring I found a 16 ga. Marlin Model 90 O/U advertised on-line that was being sold at an estate sale in rural North Dakota. After sharing photos, folks who know M90's said that it was a M90 Skeetking. Skeetkings were available by special order from Marlin in 1939-1940. The gun has special engraving, great wood and had been converted from DT to ST. Talking to the family of the original owner, I learned that Ole Horsrud, the inventor of the M90, had been a family friend and hunting buddy of their father's. They said that Ole had given that gun to their father as a gift. One person I contacted said he would offer $1200, and another guy thought it would probably go for
$1500. I emailed the auctioneer a not-to exceed bid of $950 (what I thought I could afford) and waited. He emailed back after the sale saying I had just bought the gun for $600. It cost a total of $95.00 shipping and handling on each end to receive it and another $83.00 for a gunsmith to replace the upper lever spring. It shoots great, and it is a really nice addition to my small "collection" of M90's--all of which are "shooters." Now, if I just had the $1895 for a M90 .22/.410 combo gun that was posted on Gunbroker.....


My first bolt action. A Ruger M77 w/tang safety in .270 with a Leupold VXII 2x-7. Not fancy, but had a decent trigger for a Ruger. Took lots of deer with it. Wish I'd never sold it, but replaced it with a "new fangled" Tikka T3 in .270. Great rifle, just not the same wood vs. synthetic. The Ruger had history.
Second one was a Colt Python 6". I was going to Colorado on an elk hunt, and for some crazy reason thought I needed a .44 mag. Traded the Python for a S&W 629 Classic---which was too much gun for me. Developed tendonitis in my wrist. Sold it also, rather quickly. The Python would be worth a mint now.
Third one was a customized Colt Combat Commander in satin nickel. Money was pretty tight, and you know the rest.


I seem to have a knack for walking into good deals. Hence, I always keep the "gun fund" funded with a minimum of $1000. When I was a new collector, I thought everything was a good deal, but have since gotten rid of all of my "junk" (hi-point, lorcin, etc.)with no regrets. The learning process is fun, and I had to learn on my own.

A lady in my office had a husband that passed away; she knew I was into hunting and wondered if I'd be interested in a rifle for $125. I told her to bring it to the office and I'd check it out. The next day, in she comes with a nasty looking case and a box of ammo. I got a sweet pre 64 model 94 that day, and we didn't even have to negotiate.

One gun I'm particularly fond of appeared to me 3 years ago. I had a client whose mother had passed away and the family was in from California, and selling off her estate. I asked if they had any guns in the home, and they said they had an old shotgun. I asked if it was for sale and he replied "no." The next day, I asked if I could see it and he indicated that he needed a shotgun around but preferred something not semi-auto if I were interested in a trade. (still didn't know what he had) I went home and got one of my nicest 870's and went back. He looked it over and really liked it. So he comes out with this nasty looking case. (again) Inside, the most pristine Browning a-5 16ga I've ever seen. We traded straigt across and then he threw in 2 cases of ammo he found under the bed. I had $189 in the 870 and no attachments to it whatsoever.

I still have both guns, and both nasty cases.....

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