The Best Investment


The original transferable M-16 receiver now plays host to a cop-surplus
HK416 parts kit. That is one seriously cool smoke pole.

I’ve never been great with money. I’ve only ever made two really good investments. The first was my wife. She is irreplaceable, and I got in on the ground floor. The second was a pair of machineguns.

When I was a kid, I pored over gun magazines. My attic sags under their weight today. It never occurred to me at the time that I might someday work on the other end.

This would likely precipitate the gyrating fantods in Nancy Pelosi, but as a teenager, I coveted a machinegun of my own in the worst way. I’ve never been violent, and I don’t much care for hunting. I was simply smitten with the mechanics of the things.

I worked for a year as a janitor in a drug store to buy my first AR-15 in 10th Grade. It set me back $486 in 1982 (that would be about $1,535 today). My dad had to sign for it.

I loved that rifle. However, shooting it without hearing protection is likely one of the reasons I can, at times, be a less-than-satisfying conversationalist today. Throughout it all, I counted the minutes until my 21st birthday when I might be able to buy a machinegun legally. And then tragedy struck.

That first Colt SP1 AR-15 was Will’s most prized possession. He worked a full year to accumulate the cash required to buy it.

Tragedy Strikes

The accursed machinegun ban took effect on 19 May 1986. I was nine months short of my 21st birthday. Machinegun prices predictably skyrocketed.
Prior to the ban, an M-16 receiver didn’t cost much more than the semiauto sort. The $200 transfer tax ($555 in today’s money) was hard to stomach, and there was no artificial shortage. There weren’t but a handful of us who cared enough to keep the niche market in machineguns solvent. The ban changed everything.

I found a Class III dealer who ran his business out of an auto body shop in Jackson, Miss. A 9mm MAC-10 ran $650. He ordered me an M-16 receiver through Shotgun News for $600 and agreed to hold it until my birthday. That was an astronomical sum at the time. I worked for literally years to accumulate the cash.

At 0800 on my 21st birthday, I presented myself to our local police chief with my Form 4s in hand. I had secured my fingerprints in advance. The chief and I made small talk for a few minutes and he signed the papers. I got them in the mail that very day. Where most normal, well-adjusted 21-year-olds were out drinking (I still don’t know what beer tastes like), I had just purchased my first two automatic weapons.

It took about 90 days to process the forms back then, and those were the days before computers. That seemed like an absolute eternity. I actually called the dealer twice while waiting just because I couldn’t stand it. Nowadays, we can put robots on Mars, yet the last Form 4 I did to my C&R FFL took 13 months. In their defense, the NFA Branch at BATF processes a lot more forms these day

Part Deux of Will’s first machinegun investment: a 9mm MAC-10.

Adoption Complete

When finally the big day arrived, my best friend and I made the 2.5-hour trek down to Jackson to pick the things up. He drove back so I could pore over them. It took me about an hour to get the M-16 built once I got home.

I was a college student/ROTC cadet heading toward the Big Army and was afterward broke as a skunk. It was a miracle I could scrounge up the cash to buy these things. The parts to finish the M-16 out I had gathered up as I could afford them. The barrel I found at a local gun show was shot out and well-used. However, that thing would run.

I still have that upper. There is legit no telling how many rounds have run through it. Blanks, ball, and rimfire, if it fit in the chamber, I burned it up on full auto. At one point, I shot so many .22LR rounds through my Brocal rimfire conversion that I had to hammer the accumulated lead out of the bore with an old cleaning rod. I have no idea how straight it shot. I never zeroed it. Every round was fired on rock and roll.
It would take nearly 30 grand to replace that transferable M-16 today. The MAC is a bit less than half that. The supply is forever fixed, while demand increases each year as gun geeks like me come of age. The prices rise as predictably as the tides.

Time travel is the sole purview of science fiction writers. However, if ever they invent a time machine, I’m not going back to meet some historical hero or right some grave temporal wrong. I’m saving up my pennies and buying a buttload of machineguns.

Get more Guncrank free every Friday. Subscribe here:

Subscribe To American Handgunner

Purchase A PDF Download Of The American Handgunner May/June 2024 Issue Now!