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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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Joe Casey

Went shotgun shopping with a friend several years ago. A Memco store now defunct. The salesman advised the Ithica pump with ribbed barrel was $25 less than the plain barrel. I told my buddy to pay and let's go,I'm late. He got lucky there.


Last Year a friend's father died. The following weeks were occupied with them selling off his estate. I happened by one day, wondering if he left any guns. The kind lady said "Sure, he had a .357 and some other semi auto pistol, would you like to see them?" The .357 was a Rossi with a 2" barrel, and the semi auto a Glock Model 23 in .40. The .357 had been shot six times and the Glock was NIB. I Braced for impact when I asked what she wanted for them. I was pleasantly surprised. I got the two pistols, $120 worth of ammo, 2 don hume in the waistband holsters, and a galco belt holster for $450.


Sounds like a bunch of vultures to me...

Dr. Ralph

Well CJ here's one that will warm your heart... bought a Winchester 30-30 Model 94 off my next door neighbor for $100 because he needed the money. My kids used it until they decided they needed bolts and scopes so I let him "borrow" it for a while. Haven't seen it in three years but that's okay with me. I figure I got my money's worth.

Another is a Winchester 1200 12 ga. shotgun my dad left me that I always thought was a piece of shit. Gave it to my wife's best friend because her husband is working out of state due to the poor economy and she's afraid living alone. Not so much anymore with a loaded shotgun beside her bed... not all vultures here, I do what I can. Oh yeah I donated a .410 to one of my buddies for his grandson. Share the wealth, just keep Uncle Sam out of the picture. The people he gives to spend it on dope.


You could take one of the "bolts and scope" and snipe his sorry a$$ if he still lives next door and fails to return your rifle!

I was just being cynical about picking the bones of the widow's gun cabinet!


I have never sold a gun, so no regrets there. I've seen my dad lament guns he's sold enough times to catch on that selling guns isn't a good idea.
The best deal I ever did was when a friend of my wife's was putting her dad in a nursing home and selling off the few guns he had. I went to their house to look at the guns with a flashlight (it was night and they'd already had the power turned off). She had a cheap starter pistol, a pellet pistol, a Stevens single shot 12 ga. with a barrel about three feet long, a fairly beat up Mossberg pump action shotgun that was old enough not to have a serial number, and an M1917 Eddystone rifle. A "friend from church" had offered her $150. I gave her $200 (all I had) for the lot and went home to look at it in better light. All the guns were dirty, but the only real problem with any of them was that someone had varnished the stock on the M1917. I traded the Mossberg to my dad for 800 rounds of Wolf 7.62x39 ammo. Not bad for $200 I didn't think.

Dr. Ralph

CJ he's an old Viet Nam vet who's had a stroke and gave his country a hell of a lot more than it's given him...


I stopped in a seedy pawn shop once & noticed a beautiful Belgian A-5 on the wall, but no price tag. I asked the very young manager how much, to which she replied,"is that the 12 gauge you want, what are you gonna do with it? that ol' gun a worth nuthin', whatcha give me?" I, jokingly, replied $200. Fifteen minutes later I was walking out with a $200 mint Belgian Browning A-5, hunts and runs like a top.


I have recently gotten into muzzle loaders. I only have one and it is a cheap CVA. Remington sells a line of them and I figured they weren't very good. I am kinda holding out for a T/C Encore but recently I saw an add at a big box store for a Remington for 99 dollars. This is about a third of the original price. I thought it was too good to be true, so I figured that the guns really were not worth anything and put it off. I still do not know what the quality of these guns are but in a moment of weakness I went back and got my check book out only to find that they had been completely sold out. I really wanted one. I hesitated, and now I will never know. But soon I will hopefully have a nice T/C Encore instead and I know that those are solid.


Well, I'm not gonna go into all the details but suffice to say we got into problems a few years ago and needed a lawyer. We also were light on cash but a friend knew a guy who would take guns as payment, well he won our case but it cost me most of my collection to do it.
Of all the guns he took I really miss my Universal M1 Carbine and a 10" barreled Stainless Steel Dan Wesson in 44 Mag.
The former was a fun plinking gun and one of the first guns I bought after starting to work while still in High School, and it was in a Nice wood stock, unlike most military M1s.
The Latter was a great hunting gun, it loved 300 gr Hornady XTP's and would shoot a under 6" group at 50 yds with open sights. And that was shooting leaning against a tree too, I'd have loved to see what it would have done on sandbags and a proper shooting table.

The only other guns I would like to have now is the guns my dad sold when I was a kid, a pair of old (and possibly original) muzzleloaders that he sold for $20 each.
He also had a double barrel shotgun that he loaned to a friend at work, the friend ended up quitting and disappearing with the shotgun a few months later. I don't think it was anything special but it was my dad's shotgun, just for that reason it is special to me.

Jim in Mo

The .45's I qualified with in the service didn't shoot much better than yours when you first got it. One annecdote I have about the .45 is when I was in headquarters co. at Ft. Bragg and of course we held the battalions armory. I was the assist. to the sgt of the guard one night and supposed to wear the .45. I hadn't qualified yet so I didn't have it on when the Lt. Col came in doing his duty for the night (can't remember his title) inspecting each company. He asked me "soldier why aren't you wearing your weapon"? I explained why. He said "son, if you have to use this weapon tonight remember one thing, the .45 is accurate up to and including the length of the barrel".
Glad he was in a good mood I could have got in trouble.


No offense to the women folk but countless times I have seen gun collections that took a lifetime to gather vanish at auction, pawn, or local gunstore when the husband passes away. Often the last memory the wife wants to keep is his guns. The cash means so much more. Happened to my dad and to two old friends each in the last two years, happened to one back in '99, will probably happen to another old hunting pard soon. Since my wife of 32 years is ten years younger than me it will probably happen to me also except there is a specification in my will for our son in this regard. Our daughter was an honor graudate from high school with full ride college scholarship, superbly talented and extremely gifted vocally, plus plays proficiently five musical instruments but choose dope over an education so can't even own a gun due to convictions. Tell that to your kids...might save them and you lots of heartache.


A lot of sad tales in here. If I might lighten the mood, I would like to share some recent good fortune. I am 32 years old and married with kids. I have always wanted to hunt but have never had the time or money. I recently lucked into a Browning double Auto. It was a sterling 100% at the price of $200. I have owned it for two months now, and have not missed a single weekend of duck hunting. The gun is probably down to 95% already and is getting it's share of birds. It's a joy to shoot and I think i'd live with it in a car before I sell it. I had heard they were underpowered with a 2-3/4 but I am holding my own against my partners 3-1/2. This auto makes my heart happy.


Must agree with Ish.

Guns and animal trophies are the first items widows liquidate.

Women just don't see the value on items they consider "toys".


Hokay I gotta story about a widows guns. My dear friend (and mentor)Nick died of non-myeloid leukemia a couple of years ago. after the funeral I was talking with the widow (Ginny) and we were wondering how many guns Nick had, so I offered to do an inventory. Nick had like 25 long guns and pistols. Everything from a Jennings .22 to a M-14 (national match) and an M16 with collapsable stock. I promised to sweep Ginny's chimney (I do that for luck)forever in return for a couple handguns, a Ruger MK II and a Star PD.45. Since then I have swapped the PD for a 1911 but I'm keeping the Ruger, It is my go to gun at goat & sheep slaughtering time. I keep telling Ginny She can get $500 easy for the M-16 and maybe twice that for the M-14 when she gets desperate enough. Did I mention there was enough rounds to start a small war? Nick also had a nice Rem modle 700 with a scope, an American Derringer Cop special in .357 and a 9mm Beretta (Ginnies favorite). She is keeping them all, she just doesn't seem interested in shooting 'em.
As far as my own favorite gun that got away, that would be a Savage 24 campers companion .22-20 gauge over 'n' under I had when I lived in Vermont. I had to move back to Mass and left it with a friend in Vt. who then moved and I never heard from him again. I got another Savage 24 (.22 over .410). I ain't letting this un go, I likes it too much.

Larry Winner

My wife likes to go to garage sales with a friend. She was at one and bought a coffee can of assorted ammunition in it for me. The lady of the house asked my wife if she wanted to buy a rifle. My wife does not know firearms but said yes she would buy a rifle. The lady handed her the rifle and said it was thirty five dollars.

My wife came home and showed me the rifle she bought. She thought she paid too much. I told her that any firearm in shootable condition would be worth thirty five dollars.

She had bought a cherry Winchester Model 1890!


I had the chance to buy a .257 Weatherby in a custom Fajen stock for $450 several years ago. I really didn't want a Weatherby caliber, but would have had it rechambered to .25-06, and had the barrel shortened from 25" down to 22". The stock was beautiful walnut, but I had two kids, one in diapers, and no extra cash. That one hurt.


Pre 64 model 70 featherweight in .270. $600 about 10 years ago. Perfect shape. Man do I regret not buying it. Oh well, there is always next time. I hope.

WA Mtnhunter

I think you would have trouble rechambering a .257 Weatherby to .25-06 since the groove for the belt would not be removed in the reaming for the shorter and smaller diameter .25-06.

The .257 Weatherby is also longer and larger diameter at the base and shoulder than the .25-06.

You saved yourself a lot of cash since a complete rebarrel job would be required. It is not possible to "ream down" to a smaller chamber.

Brian T

I thought that I had found a 12ga shotgun that I liked better than a Boito s/s coachgun which I had shot upland with for 20+ yrs. Wrong.


I still get tears in my ears from liein on my back,. cryin over the purdy-est little 6.5 X 55 mannicher shoenour (sp?) Iever saw
Price was $375 a few years ago.
Yup ,.. guy who had it said it wasnt powerful enough for deer,.. wanted to get rid of it ,..get
turdy oh six,..
I was in a bad mood and truth be told didnt wanna deal with the mutt ,..
Big mistake ,..

Steve C

I have two stories from the past several years. One is a early 60s era Charles Daly O/U (Miroku) I found in a pawn shop. The checkering was a bit smooth and rounded, the bluing worn off in the bottom of the receiver, and puny 2 ¾ inch chambers which nobody would want to be limited to. But the walnut was pretty, I like old guns, and I shoot 500 2 ¾ inch shells for every 3”/3 ½” shell I shoot. It was $525 and I couldn’t walk away from it. I should also add that this was within a couple of years of my twin sons being born and money was pretty tight.

The other is a Winchester Super X1. I have always liked this gun with its over-engineering akin to the Model 12 but I had never actually seen one. I ran across one exactly two years ago at the big local gun show. I hunt very seldom now and had no earthly reason to get another gun. But I couldn’t walk away from it either. It to was $525 but in mint condition. Thanksgiving was out of town so I had to wait a week before I could take it out for wobble trap with my son. What a magnificent gun, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t care for automatics. The following March I took my son out for his first hunt, a hunting preserve deal for pheasants and chukars. He used the Winchester and I provided back-up with the Charles Daly. His first hunt and he missed only one bird, shooting 13 for 14. I haven’t shot it since because he’s claimed it for himself. At least that’s what he thinks.

On another note, many years ago when I was still single I bought a Winchester 23 Light Duck a year after they stopped making them. Cost $1000. I shot two boxes of shells through it and it was a nice gun and all but I was always concerned about putting a scratch on it. I sold it a few years later for $1500. During the same gun show that I bought the Super X1 I saw a couple of these for sale, one going for the price of $4500. I didn’t feel anywhere as bad about losing $3000 by not holding onto the Model 23 as I felt happy about finally finding a mint Super X1.

Finally, I did shoot a borrowed Browning Twelvette on a quail shoot. I really enjoyed it (particularly the unique safety) and would love to have one but the price has been going through the roof around here.

Dr. Ralph

What's a Browning double auto? Strange name unless it actually has two barrels AND is a semi-automatic at the same time... new one on me. Guess I'll google it.

One gun I missed out on was the only Remington R-15 I have seen and it was $899 but I said I'll come back next weekend without the wife of course. Gone and now they want over a grand if you actually can find one...


Dr. Ralph, the double auto was designed by John Browning's son Val and was manufactured in the 50's. It is a semi auto that will only fire 2 shots, just like a double. It's an interesting gun, that could be bought with a steel or aluminum receiver. The alloy ones even came in colors. It was ahead of its time and wasn't a big seller. They are available on the used gun market for pretty reasonable prices. GJ


Well, you learn something new every day.

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