A Hairdo Handgun …
The Tale Of A 1917


All guns have a story to tell. Some are just more interesting than others. When we were kids, nothing was better than seeing those long, heavy, rectangular boxes on Christmas morning. They held magical properties for us. We knew, or at least hoped we knew, what was in those seductive boxes. Heck, even today, those boxes are capable of casting hypnotic spells on us.

Back then, we wanted guns like us, brand spanking new and unblemished. As time ticks by, though, strange things happen as we age. We start missing the good old days, back when we were in our prime, yearning for those simpler times. Nothing’s better than an old gun to transform you back in time, reminding you of the simpler days you seek.


You remember Phil, my retired state trooper buddy? He’s over 80 years old now and doesn’t waste time with unnecessary words. He simply tells it how it is. Phil has guns strategically place around his house for those just-in-case moments. His long winding driveway takes over 90 seconds to maneuver from hard road to house, and Phil has sensors installed to alert him the moment some unfortunate soul turns onto it.

If he’s not expecting company, he grabs his Walmart greeter — a long ago confiscated sawed-off shotgun from the old days — keeping it close to his leg as he walks onto his deck, overlooking the driveway, and he waits …

Tale Of The 1917

Phil’s resume as a state trooper looks like this: road trooper, K-9 handler, SWAT team member, and finally, range officer. For fun, he also competed on the state pistol team. As a trooper and fellow gun aficionado, guns just seemed to land in his lap.

Phil’s first wife was a beautician, and all her clients knew he had a proclivity for guns — it didn’t matter what kind. If it went bang, he was interested. If he wasn’t, he’d know someone who was. As happens, many customers would tell Phil’s ex-wife whenever someone had a gun they were trying to get rid of — usually after the death of a spouse, family member or friend.

One bright sunny day, just such a thing happened. It’s one of those “spouse’s father-in-law died stories,” and he had an old .45. Phil was thinking it was a 1911 .45 auto (you can never have too many 1911s, right?). He told his wife to offer a long-forgotten amount of money, and a deal was struck. Mind you, it was a reasonable offer, even for back then. Now, Phil wouldn’t scalp anyone, but it was a nice offer both parties were happy with. Especially with a free hairdo thrown in.

When Phil finally lifted the lid off the old, musty shoebox, he was pleasantly surprised. Inside was an old flap holster with a red, oily shop rag on top. Unraveling the rag, he was ecstatic to be staring at a S&W 1917 revolver — being a revolver kind of guy at heart. Not only was the gun complete with holster, but the original remittance slip for the gun and holster were also in the box. What a true treasure, complete with background and history included, a trail of sorts for all to follow.

The Receipt Tells All

The gun was sold on March 16, 1937, from the Benica Ordnance Depot in Benica, Calif., for the princely sum of $16.15, and the holster cost a whopping $1.43. Written in pen on Oct. 14, 1959, was a personal note, “Danny, save as proof of non-theft. V.R. This transaction occurred over 50 years ago now, back when things were simpler.

While talking with gunsmith Dusty Hooley — the best name for a gunsmith ever — we were talking about this very thing. Leave a paper trail for some of your prized shooters. If it was great grandpa’s old Winchester 1886, write down everything you know about it, such as the game killed with it, where he got it from, etc. I guarantee someone will appreciate your efforts down the road.

If you bought it at a gun show, write it down. Write who you were with, the price, where you went to lunch afterward — anything about it. Who knows, your great, great grandkid may be reading the very note someday. He’ll be grateful you did, too! None of us are immortal, but leaving a paper trail of where some of our favorite shooters came from is the closest thing we have to being so.

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