It’s been almost a year since I published this piece over at Military Times and I wanted to briefly revisit the good old days. The days when we could attend public gatherings freely (thanks COVID) and enjoy relatively decent pricing on firearms and ammo. Back then, you might have a chance at scoring something special at a decent price. Since then, we’ve seen prices skyrocket due to the virus and the ever-devolving political landscape, but I’m sure we’ll get back to where we were with the passing time and cooling tempers.
One thing to understand about a gun show, while prices can often be inflated compared to your mom-and-pop gun store, what you get in return is breadth of selection. That’s some of what I discussed in this article. Something I didn’t touch on was one of the coolest guns I’ve ever seen; a fully transferable though non-operative M1909 Benét–Mercié, also known as the Hotchkiss Portative. Learn more about it here.
That’s what I love about gun shows: the rarities. You never know when grandpa might dust off that old shooter in the attic and bring it out to make a few bucks. If you’ve done your homework, and with a quick consultation on your smartphone, you may be able to spot and acquire something truly special. Nowhere else in the world will these circumstances play out, and its up to us to foster the culture. I look forward to the return of gun shows, cheap imported military surplus firearms, and an overall return to normalcy for our community.
This article was originally published May 5th, 2020 on the Military Times Gear Scout blog.
I’ve always loved going to gun shows. They’re a great way to experience a genuine bit of Americana, where the old and young come together to share and pass on a unique part of our culture.
Recently, I had the opportunity to check out the Nation’s Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. While the 1300+ tables offered a plethora of plastic pistols and generic looking AR-15s, I couldn’t help but notice a few diamonds in the rough. These unique firearms probably slip by the casual observer without a second thought, but to a discerning collector they might represent something truly special.
Let’s take a look…
Easily the most expensive firearm I saw, the US T-48, a licensed copy of the FN FAL, was also probably one of the rarest in attendance at the show. Little do most people know, the US Army tested over 3,000 FALs when considering options for a new light self-loading rifle in the mid-1950s. Unfortunately, the US-made FAL lost to the dumpster fire that we’ve come to know as the M-14. But a few of them continue to live on today.
In fact, according to the seller no more than eight original T-48s survive in civilian hands, making them a remarkably unique and interesting addition to any collection. The presence of a functioning happy switch only adds to the desirability of this rifle. Asking price for the US T-48: $100,000.
While browsing, I had a nice discussion with an older gentleman sitting behind a table of M-1 Garands. Resting atop one of his displays was this beautiful target rifle that I learned was a USMC Remington Model 40-X. While the 40-X was built for a number of years, only 2,687 USMC contract guns were made between 1957 and 1958. Lauded as one of the most accurate target rifles ever produced, this example was adorned with original Redfield Olympic sights. Asking price for the USMC 40-X: $1,995.
Just before the show closed, I happened across a firearm that truly surprised me: an Afghani Jezail. Originally built off of captured or copied British actions, the Jezail was the primary Afghan weapon of choice during the First and Second Anglo-Afghan wars, from 1839-1842 and 1878-1880 respectively.
This particular example was around 6 feet long, very light weight, and had been converted from flintlock to percussion cap ignition sometime during its life. While I couldn’t tell you whether this is a tourist gun or an actual combat veteran Jezail, it represents an extremely unique and often unknown firearm, and at the very least would serve as an excellent conversation starter. After talking with the seller, his final price was $150.
And last, but certainly not least, amidst the multitude of machineguns for sale at the show, I saw my unicorn gun: the MG-34. Familiar to most people in the firearms community, the Maschinengewehr 34 was the first general purpose machinegun ever produced, seeing extensive frontline use in World War II. Due to design complexity, it was eventually phased out of production in favor of the MG-42, but continued serving until the end of the war. The asking price for this MG-34: $42,000.
There were a few honorable mentions at the show, too. I saw a surprising number of G-43s, Germany’s semi-automatic answer to the US M-1 Garand and Soviet SVT 40.
The seller offering the T-48 also had a Colt Aircrewman. Most of these pistols were actually destroyed by the Airforce, but they would make an excellent addition to any collection, safety be damned!
I hope people continue to attend gun shows. Besides being a great way to support your local economy, you might have an interesting conversation and learn something new. The next Nation’s Gun Show is in April, and I hope to see you there!