We frequent the local pawn shops because we find some good deals there. The last one was an Enfield No 4 Mk I in good shape, decently scoped and wearing a synthetic stock. The owner of this particular store (he actually owns four or five but this is where he has his office) is a bit of a character. He’s infamous for his “butt calculator,” a big rectangular thing with fake jewel buttons tucked into his waistband at the small of his back so he can whip it out and crunch up some numbers for you on the spot. He normally sets a fairish price on his inventory, but you have to watch him close when you’re haggling a trade-in or selling something outright otherwise you’ll walk out without your gun, owing him money, and not quite sure what happened, and he won’t even lubricate you with a cup of coffee. He’s not a warm person but he is professional and courteous enough while he eyes you with his predatory eyeball. I respect his bargaining skills and his obvious ability to read people, but if I ever decide to part with a gun it won’t be in his shop.
That’s one of the beauties of a free market. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Over the years I’ve noticed that their inventory is a good indication of the local economy. When times are good they’ll have a decent selection of a little bit of everything in a range of conditions and prices so someone is bound to find something that will work for them at a price that they can afford. I have noticed that their inventory runs heavy on synthetic stocks even on older guns but hot humid salty air is hard on wood stocks so that makes sense. Most of the average guns have cosmetic issues and a few of them have mechanical issues but nothing you can tell without firing it. They’re one of the few pawns in the area that let you bring back a gun if it doesn’t work. They won’t take the craptastic guns because they’re usually more trouble than they’re worth and if they wind up with something less than decent they’ll funnel it through one of their locations where quality isn’t as high of a priority for their customers.
Cave and I stopped in at one of those locations when we were in the area. Behind wired glass cases they had one AR, a couple of shotguns, and a bunch of low end pistols with one Glock as the crowned jewel of the case. You could drive ten miles up to one of their other locations and save yourself $200 on an identical gun. The poor tax in effect but I guess it pays for the damage the goons do trying to break in.
During times of economic crisis you’ll start seeing more safe queens, higher end rifles, garands and more “assault” rifles, things that people wouldn’t normally part with, and they’ll be priced so that if you’re flush you can get some good deals on some nice guns. Right now they have a mostly original (and what has been repaired was done several lifetimes ago), authentic, with provenance blunderbuss on their wall for $4000. Rumor is that it belonged to a pirate. I would want to see the provenance before I believed that story but pirates were in this area for a long time so you never know.
When I went to his store the other day I walked in and their shelves were full, but their inventory struck me as odd. There were a lot of decent bolt action hunters and shotguns, the type that people generally tend to sell privately because they don’t bring enough at the pawn. There were more than the usual amounts of safe queens including some gorgeous and pristine English bird guns, there were tons of revolvers, two cases worth, maybe five Glocks, and they were completely out of scary black rifles. I was hard pressed to even find a gun in a synthetic stock, I’m guessing anything wearing black plastic is in demand by those with little to no experience. I was very surprised to see just how much trash they had on their walls though.
Cave and I started looking around. We found another Mossberg 151M, this one doesn’t have a scope and the sights have been replaced but it was professionally done, the action is nice, the bore is clean and it’s obviously a gun that someone has taken care of. The price was about $30 more than it would have run last month, but it’s not a bad deal and still cheaper than one we found in Oct. We picked it up. While we were perusing the selection I had earmarked three other weapons. A nice short barreled 870 that we were planning on purchasing, a National Ordnance M1903A3 and a M1 carbine clone, both of which had been hacked on. We wanted to look at them on the off chance that there might be something worth the effort to salvage. There wasn’t.
The Carbine came down first. It was a Plainfield, with the original walnut stock in eh shape. The serial number was in the 18,000’s which by my quick and dirty estimate put it’s manufacture date no earlier than 1970, far past the surplus GI parts years. The action worked smoothly, the bore was clean with a good muzzle, but Bubba had his way and then some with this poor gun. Besides having to beat the rusty magazine out of the mag well the most noticeable problem was that someone had removed the rear sight and screwed on a flip up v-notch sight well forward of the action. It was loose and slopped around. The screws felt stripped, I pulled out one of the screws and it ran almost the thickness of the chamber. If we’d had the good bore light with us I’m pretty sure we’d have been able to see a disturbance or even perhaps bumps inside from those screws. To get the handguard over the sights they routed a hole into the the middle of it, removed the metal blade that inserts above the chamber and called it a day. The handguard clacked around while we were handling it and fell off when the action was worked. I can’t see it surviving recoil. Not only that but with the rear sights so far forward I found myself creeping up on them and trying to get a cheek weld almost on top of my hand. Hot brass, gasses, particles, and a flying handguard that close to my face? Not safe in my opinion. The asking price? $500. This is something they would have laughed out the door this summer and now they have it priced almost at what one in excellent condition normally brings…wow.
The National Ordnance didn’t have holes drilled in it but Bubba did hacksaw off most of the mannlicher stock, screwing up the balance and leaving the barrel free to noodle around. I’m almost curious to find out if the barrel whip would make a twang when fired. I would call it a bad sporterization except it didn’t even deserve that much credit. The action wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either. They wanted $200. A stock can be replaced but this one also wasn’t old enough to have GI parts on it and NO’s reputation for potentially turning themselves into shrapnel from bad receivers meant I passed on it.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the ten minutes of boggling over the bubba’d guns we turned to the short 870, and it was gone. The man who had been standing next to us looking perplexedly at a scoped Rem 700 in .270 was now across the store with the shotgun, filling out paperwork. We snoozed and we lost. I have reason to believe that he didn’t have two clues about guns and chose it based on what he overheard us saying.
Prices were running a little high, $50 to $100 more than what I’d have expected and some of the heavier calibers were going for pretty close to their MSRP, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they were asking so much for the chop shop carbine. Then I realized it was one of probably only three semi-automatic rifles left in the entire store. They were even out of semi-auto .22’s. I said something about the dearth to the clerk, who popped out with ‘Oh we had ‘em, a lot of ‘em. You should have seen the prices on those, we had a Colt AR go for over $3500 and a Mini-14 for somewhere around $1600. People couldn’t get their wallets out fast enough.” He also explained why the inventory was so different, people have been bringing in two, three, or more guns to try and offset the price of an “assault" rifle and the store was accepting guns they wouldn’t normally look at because they could get them cheaper than ever and people were buying them. I noted something I have rarely seen at that shop before, all of the lesser guns had tags that read As Is ONLY. Nice of them to label which guns not to buy.
I think AR’s and AK’s and all the other scary guns are useful platforms that everyone should at least be familiar with if not own at least one of. However, I hated seeing evidence that so many people are practically giving their guns away to purchase them. I hope that people aren’t doing other stupid things to finance this run, but from a few overheard conversations I suspect many are racking up the debt to "invest.” If you didn’t already own one they really aren’t a good investment right now. Either you will be legislated out of your right to profit from them, or nothing will happen and you’ll have to eat the loss when the prices normalize.
I understand their urgency, sort of. Earlier this year I was going to sit with my favorite gun purveyor and make an order so I could build my own AR. I was even thinking about two, a 5.56 and a .308. Finances necessitated that it be put off until tax time, and now it looks like that won’t happen either. Cave has AR’s, but they’re not MY AR so I have a bit of a lust for one too. If there were none available to me I would almost be tempted to whip out the card, but now isn’t really the time to lose your head about such things. I’m more concerned that my Garand and Carbine won’t pass on to my children. I had a nightmare that Feinstein seized them from my daughter and I silently screamed NOooooooo while watching her weld them to a giant Tower of Babel monolith she’s creating so she can ascend and divide the country at the same time. She’s already well on her way.