What Was I Thinking?


Duke bought this Webley Model VI without giving a thought that
it might have been converted to fire .45 ACPs.

It’s commonly known in the gun’riting business when a columnist wakes up some morning near deadline time without a clue as to what to write about, he’ll do a “Guns I wish I’d never sold” piece. How about I switch that around and tell you about the handguns I wish I’d never bought in the first place?

First off let me say I’m impetuous; often leaping before I look. So my first “oops” back in 1972 could have been easily avoided. It was the first S&W Military & Police .32-20 revolver I had ever seen, and the price, at $75, seemed more than reasonable. FOR A REVOLVER WITH A BIG RING IN THE BARREL though, it wasn’t that great a deal. If I had bothered to look down its barrel before grabbing my wallet I would have easily seen it. Sometimes a gun like that will still shoot quite well. This one didn’t, keyholing bullets all over the place. I sold it for $50 but at least told the new buyer about the ring.

For some reason it seems like many of my early faux pas came with autopistols. Back in the 1970s I traded into two identical Llama 1911 .38 Supers. Within 24 hours I looked at them and realized I didn’t even want one .38 Super not to mention a 1911 with a silly looking ventilated rib. At this late date I can’t even remember to whom and for what I traded them, but undoubtedly I lost money on the deal.

Another autoloader I regretted was a post-war Walther P38. They aren’t bad guns, and in fact the one I bought shot pretty tight groups. Its problem was with its extractor, which kept departing the rest of the gun. The first time this happened I was shooting in about 6″ of fresh snow and, wonder-of- wonders, I actually found it. The next time it flew off was on bare dirt and I never did find it that time. As soon as a new one was located, that P38 was peddled.


After: Duke turned this ugly ducking of a "parts" Colt SAA .45 a showpiece
by having it restored, engraved and fitted with ivory grips.

Still Stupid

Of all the hundreds of handguns I’ve owned in my 40-plus years of buying them, the single type of which I’ve owned the most has been Colt SAAs. Generally they’re pretty good guns regardless of exact caliber or generation. However, there can be problems. It’s not uncommon for 1st Generation Peacemakers to have mismatched barrel and cylinder chamber mouth dimensions. I learned this the hard way by owning two that wouldn’t group on a good-sized cowboy hat at 25 yards. One was a .44-40 and the other a .32-20. The barrel on the former slugged out at .427″ but the cylinder wouldn’t accept loads with bullets sized larger than .425″. The .32-20 had a .314″ barrel groove diameter but the cylinder’s chamber mouths were only .310″ . At least I didn’t lose any money on those Colts; selling them both to non-shooting collectors.

I almost did lose on another Colt SAA. It was near closing time once at a big gun show and I hadn’t bought a single thing. So instead of coming home empty handed I grabbed a well-worn Peacemaker .45. At home I found this gun wasn’t as well worn as I had thought. Removing the ejector rod housing I found no finish under it either, indicating the blue had been removed chemically and not by honest use. Also, the cylinder didn’t have the correct bevels for the Colt’s time frame as indicated by its serial number. I had paid a decent amount of bucks for a parts gun. Ever heard of turning something negative into something positive? I did that by sending that Colt .45 to a well known “firearms restorer” (John Schultz, P.O. Box 357, Lawton, IA 51030; e-mail: [email protected]). He beveled the cylinder properly, had it fully engraved and then silver — not nickel— plated and fitted with ivory grips. It’s a show piece of my collection and now at least worth what I have invested in it.

Wobbly Webley

New interests can also lead you into the unknown. These last few years I’ve been putting together a collection of World War II firearms, so I grabbed the very first Webley Mark VI I came across at a gun show. But I had totally spaced out the fact very many of those imported to these shores had been converted to.45 ACP. That one indeed had been converted, but luckily I had a friend who was looking for just such a gun. Then I searched around until finding one still an original .455.

The above are a few of my screwups, but alls well that ends well. Next time I come up on deadline time without a good topic I’ll tell you about the guns I should have bought — but stupidly didn’t. Is there a trend here?

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