by B.B. Pelletier
When I was a young man in California in the 1960s, rumors circulated about World War II Harley Davidson motorcycles still in the crate selling for ridiculously low prices. You had to assemble them, and they probably needed new tires, of course, but $100 got you a brand new old bike. I never found any of them, but I don’t doubt they existed because of some other wonderful airgun deals I did happen to get in on. That’s what I’m talking about today.
My first great deal
Putting aside the like-new M1903 Springfield I bought for just $35 in the 1960s (yes, I did that, but my college income was only about $100/month, so $35 didn’t seem cheap), the first big deal I stumbled on was the end of the Navy Arms sale of 1954 Hakim trainers for $65 each. The rifles were made by Anschutz as trainers for the Egyptian Army and I happened to already own one, or I wouldn’t have bought four more. They were advertised in Shotgun News in one of those jumbled ads few people read.
The guns were in terrible condition, with sand mixed in with long-term storage grease, but all four ended up working, as I recall. Today, a clean one will fetch $275 and a beater still brings $200. They will group like a 10-meter rifle at close range, and can be tuned up to 550 f.p.s. with .22 caliber pellets. They will even accept a scope! I just checked and it seems I have never blogged this rifle for you, despite having owned more than a dozen over the years, so we’ll get to that in the future.
When the Wall fell…
Many of you are too young to remember the Berlin Wall except in history books, but I remember when it went up and when it fell. When the former East Germany fell and western eyes went in, there was a garage sale of unbelievable proportions. It’s still going on today in the military surplus world. One airgun incident happened when a South Carolina pawnshop owner bought several hundred target airguns that had belonged to the Stasi (East German secret police). The pawnshop owner contacted me because I was publishing The Airgun Letter, and he wondered if I would tell my readers about his guns.
There were three principal models: a Haenel 310 bolt-action repeater that shot 4.4mm round lead balls, a Haenel 311 bolt-action single-shot target rifle and a Haenel 312 sidelever single-shot target rifle. The 310 went for $49 with one clip; the 311 went for $59 and the 312 went for $79, as I recall. I put the word out and the rifles sold well. So well that he bought a second container of them. The 310 was so popular that John Groenewold imported a ton of 4.4mm lead balls that he still sells by the pound today. For about two years, the airgun community was awash in Haenel target airguns. Then, the supply sold out and today you can expect to pay $200 for a 310 or a 311 and $300 or more for a 312.
Along with the three main types of guns came a handful of oddballs, and the dealer gave me one in appreciation for helping him get the word out. I looked at it yesterday. It’s a breakbarrel Haenel model III-264 that was probably produced in the 1960s or ’70s, and it reminded me of this time and the wonderful bargains we had. I did report on the Haenel 310 as well as the Haenel 311, so you can see what those guns look like. I’ll do the 264 at some point in the near future.
The Crosman potlatch
In the middle 1990s, management at Crosman wanted to divest themselves of their past so they could concentrate on the future. They emptied several “back rooms” full of guns and vintage parts and sold them to the lowest bidder. I happened to shop at the store owned by that bidder – Rick Willnecker. I was there when Rick took delivery of all the old model 101 guns and 1924 Crosman pump guns. There were hundreds of guns. Many were only for parts, but there were over a hundred complete guns. Mixed in with this stuff were several Montgomery Ward model 180 guns that I’d never seen before. They are a dual-powerlet gun that’s shorter than the 160, but larger than the regular 180. I still own the shop manual of Rene Vanderveld, the main Crosman repairman for many decades. A noted airgun dealer from South Carolina bought most of the vintage pumps, because Rick was mainly interested in the parts. But for a few months, Crosman 101 and 100 guns were everywhere.
Yes, you say, all well and good for you old fogies, but nothing like that ever happens now, does it? Yes, it does. Less than one year ago, I told you about the Predom Lucznik target pistol that was selling nationwide for about $50. I bought five of them to use as gifts as well as one to keep. Now, I may be more fortunate than you because I live in north central Texas, where Military Gun Supply was selling the guns with cases and holsters. Heck, they still have a few! So don’t think you’ve missed out. The super deals will keep right on coming for the rest of my life and yours as well, for that is the nature of things.
A wise man once said, “The deal of a lifetime comes along about every 18 months.”