Tales Of A Firearms Collector

What Was I Thinking?

The No. 4 Lee-Enfield rifle carried Commonwealth troops
through World War II. It was rugged, accurate, and fast.

They say that the first step toward freeing oneself from addiction is admitting you have a problem. I do formally announce such today in this venue. By way of explanation, I offer the following anecdote:

Collectors are drawn to firearms for a wide variety of reasons. Just like some might favor blondes while others are inexplicably partial to brunettes or redheads, gun nerds typically have a favorite genre. Mine is classic military weapons.

Little gets my blood pumping faster than some cool vintage martial firearm. The weirder and more obscure, the better. The only way to improve on that is for the gun in question to manifest some cool story as well. As such, I am ever on the prowl.

The best of the lot might sport the actual stigmata of combat. Military weapons used by troops in action carry an almost holy ambience. At some point, some young man clutched such a trinket amidst the most intense of human experiences. The fear, anger and exhilaration associated with combat are unparalleled in the human experience. The weapons used in such action carry just a little bit of that secret sauce back with them to more peaceful spaces.

This particular No. 4 Lee-Enfield was, at some point in its service life, blown up. Despites its being objectively worthless, I just had to have it.

Back Story

The rifle in question was a GunBroker find. For those of you who might not have had the pleasure, GunBroker.com is a 24/7 coast-to-coast gun show. If you cannot find it on GunBroker, you really don’t need it.

GunBroker itself has a fascinating history. Just before the turn of the millennium, eBay decided to do some virtue signaling and prohibited the sale of firearms on their website. In response, Steven Urvan started GunBroker, a dedicated auction site catering to firearm enthusiasts. GunBroker has never sold a gun; They just connect legal sellers and buyers across the country and around the world. Their business model turned out to be fairly sound.

Today, GunBroker.com has six million registered users and averages seven million visitors per month. They list about a million guns and gun-related items at any given time. They used to have a dedicated iPhone app before Apple kicked them off the App Store. Now, you have to access GunBroker on your phone via web browser.

With literally billions in cumulative sales, GunBroker.com is the third-largest auction site on the internet, right after eBay and eBay Motors. It’s counted among the top 400 most popular websites ever. In retrospect, perhaps eBay and Apple just don’t like money.

Whatever struck this thing, a piece of shrapnel from an artillery round most likely, did a serious job on the barrel and forearm.

A Certifiable Piece of Junk

Anyway, the gun in question was a nice British No. 4 Lee-Enfield. The No. 4 was a World War II vintage evolutionary development of the previous Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE). British Tommies affectionately referred to the SMLE as the Smelly. Both guns remained in production throughout WWII. At a glance, you can differentiate between the two rifles by the muzzle. That of the Smelly is flat, while the No. 4 muzzle sports a stubby bit of barrel.
The No. 4 was a bit cheaper and faster to make and saw service with Commonwealth troops in all theaters of war. This particular example had a nice action and a well-preserved finish. It had also been blown up.

At some point in its military service, this particular rifle had been subjected to the kinetic effects of some kind of fragmenting weapon. The wooden forearm was shattered, and the barrel cocked off at a jaunty angle. There were deep gouges in the steel. The action still worked fine, but firing this weapon would have transformed the rifle into a bomb. The old vintage gun was a certifiable piece of junk, yet I absolutely had to have it.

In my defense, there aren’t a whole lot of idiots like me wandering the world. Therefore, I got the derelict old gun cheap. It transferred in painlessly via my C&R FFL and now resides comfortably in the corner of my man space. I pawed over the shattered implement of destruction, mentally cataloged its many battle scars, and let my mind wander as to the specifics of their origin. The seller had found the gun in an estate sale and had no idea of its story. I had to fill in the details myself. Fortunately, I have a vivid imagination.

It’s quite possibly the most worthless gun thing that I own. While I could theoretically re-barrel the rifle and source a fresh stock, that would be stupid. That onerous chore would require some special tools and special talent. The restoration project would cost far more than a comparable original rifle in good shape might be. It would also further ruin this already ruined rifle. The intrinsic value of this beat-up old gun stems from its many mechanical warts.

If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m still glad I threw a couple of hundred bucks away on this battered old combat veteran rifle. It has absolutely no practical utility, but it looks cool in a quirky sort of way. As my sunset years approach, I might just aspire to something similar myself.

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