The holy grail for gun collectors is probably a .45 ACP Model 1911-A1 manufactured by the Singer Manufacturing Co. As I understand it, the sewing machine company made very few of the model 1911s in .45 ACP. They were apparently issued only to aviators, and very few survived the war. If you somehow found a Singer .45 today, it would bring a king’s ransom at auction.
Unusual guns have always fascinated me. I recall visiting my old boss Carl Upton of Tracy and being totally fascinated by the historical guns in his collection. They were truly works of art. Old Carl even had a flintlock pistol from the Revolutionary War that had been manufactured by the Tower of London armory. Holding it, I could almost feel the history flowing into my hands.
Collecting unusual guns doesn’t have to be a pastime that breaks you, although it certainly could if you let it. A used AR-7 survival rifle is readily available at less than $100 dollars if you really look. It is an eight-shot .22-caliber rifle that dismantles into four parts, which all fit neatly into a plastic stock. It was waterproof and floated if dropped overboard. Made originally for the Air Force in the 1950s, it was also picked up by the Navy and was installed in jet ejection seats and life rafts. It could put food on the table until you were rescued or made your way back to civilization. Soon, civilians wanted them, too. The handy little gun is still available today as the Henry survival rifle. Whichever model you manage to get, either new or used, it’s a great little one-of-a kind gun.
Another unique firearm is the Savage over-under combination. A popular model is a .22-caliber rifle over a .410 shotgun barrel. It is an ideal gun for the poor working stiff who wants to hunt birds with a shotgun and small game with a rifle, but who can’t afford two guns. It’s made in a variety of calibers and gauges, but my favorite is a .223 Remington rifle barrel over a 12-gauge shotgun. A rancher could keep one in his pickup and use it one day on a marauding coyote eating his calves and then the next day on a rattler coiled next to the back porch. There are plenty of those over-under combos on ranches and farms all over America.
There are almost unlimited examples of rare or unusual firearms out there that you can collect for reasonable prices. You can hold a piece of the Revolution, or the Civil War, or the Hatfield and McCoy feud in your own hands. You can heft an M-1 like the one your grandfather carried in World War II or a Colt .45 automatic like the one his father might have carried in the war to end all wars.
You’ve got to keep your eyes open and do some research, but collecting offbeat guns can be a touchstone to American history.
Until next time, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, began writing Tight Lines more than three decades ago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.