by B.B. Pelletier
Some of you understood my tongue-in-cheek humor last week, when I told you about passing on two $100 BB guns at a flea market that turned out to be worth $600-800 apiece. But others did not, and someone was kind enough to advise me that perhaps I should have rethought that decision.
For the latter group: GET READY, BECAUSE TOM IS BEING IRONIC AGAIN.
The bluebird of happiness…
Perhaps, 10 years ago, I was attending the now-defunct St. Louis airgun show and happened to see a strange Crosman airgun on one of the tables. The paper with it was a copy of an owner’s manual for the Crosman V350M BB gun. I knew about the V350. It was a spring-piston BB gun that cocks by pulling the barrel straight back–much the same as an old Quackenbush model 1 pellet gun.
The V350 mechanism was later dressed up by Crosman to look like an M1 Carbine and became one of the most iconic BB guns of modern times. But this V350M was unknown to me. It looked different, too. At the end of the barrel, there was a steel sleeve that was deeply knurled along the entire length. And along one side of the barrel ran a spring-loaded magazine tube for the BBs.
The Crosman M1 Carbine is a realistic copy of the World War II carbine. It’s a V350 dressed up.
The V350M looks like a standard gun except for the sleeve at the muzzle.
This steel sleeve at the muzzle helps with cocking, as any V350 owner will readily understand.
This external BB magazine didn’t come on the V350. I don’t know why it was added to the M model.
The standard V350 has its magazine internal to the receiver. BBs are poured down a hole and line up to be fed to the breech one at a time when the barrel is pulled back to cock the gun. So, it wasn’t necessary to put an external magazine tube along the outside of the barrel, but this gun had one.
It taunts me
For the first day of the show, I looked at this curiosity every time I passed the table. I didn’t know what it was, so I was very reluctant to show any real interest, even when collector Ted Osborn pointed it out to me and, at one point, forced me to listen to all its virtues. He wanted me to buy it.
Sometimes in life, we’re exposed to an opportunity for the briefest of moments. Only by luck or good instincts do we make the right moves and capture the moment.
It ridicules me…
At other times opportunity settles in right outside our door and allows its dog to dig in our flower garden and its children to play their music too loud. This kind of opportunity is like the relative nobody wants to see at a family gathering. It can ripen on your front walk until it rots and its blacked skin bursts open to allow the mushy flesh inside to sink into the concrete so deep you have to use a pressure washer to get it off.
That was the kind of opportunity this strange V350M represented. It was the main curiosity of this particular airgun show. You could ask any of the dealers what it was and they all said the same thing, “I don’t know.” And there were some very astute dealers at that show. Guys like Wes Powers, Bob Spielvogel and John Groenewold had their own tables where they had things like two boxed American Lugers with $1,000 marked on each of them, and even they didn’t know what this oddity was.
It slaps me in the face…
And I watched the whole episode play out in slow motion before my eyes. It wasn’t a fleeting chance at a brass ring. No, it was more of a, “Hey, we’ve got a truckload of ice cream and no place to put it. Anybody want some?”
And all I could think to do was to turn my head and walk away before somebody asked me whether I wanted to buy it for $100. Curious, yes–but don’t take me for a fool! A complete idiot, perhaps, but never a fool.
Finally, Ted Osborn got tired of pimping the gun to everyone else and came up with the cash himself. What a relief! I wouldn’t have to listen to that harranging any longer. I could look people in the eye once more. The airgun that was unheard-of-by-every-Crosman-collector-in-the-world was no longer for sale, thank goodness. What did I miss?
A super-rare gun, as it turned out. It seems that back in the days when Daisy was selling thousands of regular BB guns without sights to the U.S. Army for the Vietnam-driven Quick Kill instinct shooting program, for some reason Crosman decided they wanted a piece of the pie. The Army obliged with a public solicitation for instinct shooters.
The boys in the back room at Crosman took a stock V350 and added a knurled handle around the end of the barrel for easier cocking, plus an external BB magazine for heaven-knows-what-reason, and they tacked the letter M for military after the model number. Thus was born the V350M.
Are they rare?
Nobody knows exactly how many guns were made, but we do know that the military never bought it. It was never a civilian model, either. It’s likely the number of guns Crosman made ranged from six to twenty-five. Some big number like that.
What was I thinking? A man goes to an airgun show to see and buy airguns. I had just been steamrolled by the strangest modification of a modern Crosman airgun anyone had ever seen–only until that very show, nobody had ever heard of it. But for over a day, it pulled up its kilt and bared its rear end at me while shouting insults from across the aisle. All the while, I tried to pretend it wasn’t there because, I thought, maybe it’s a fake!
Do you think it was real?
Was it real, do you think? Well, if it wasn’t, some clever sharpie went to all the trouble of writing and printing a Crosman factory manual for the military, then copied it just to extort $100 from some unsuspecting rube like me! What will they think of next? Fake Rolex watches they can charge $20 for? Watches that actually run and tell time? Think about that for a moment, if you aren’t already laughing your head off.
Oh, yeah, it was real! I still have the mud stains on my bluejeans from where the dog shoveled dirt all over me. The V350M is still real today, and hundreds of advanced collectors know all about it–thanks to the diligent efforts of Ted Osborn. And I kept my hundred dollars safe under a rock, so when my master returned I still had it to give back.
The gun shown here is not the same one I saw at St. Louis. This is another one that was shown at Roanoke last October, and several have emerged from the woodwork in the years that have passed. We now know much more of the story than we did back then.
Thankfully, I still have my money!
You ain’t heard nothin’ yet. I got a million of them!