B.B.’s airguns – What I kept and why – Part 1
by B.B. Pelletier
This subject was suggested by several readers who want to know what airguns I have become attached to over the years. I can write about that because I’ve given a lot of thought to the subject. Whenever I think about selling a gun, I run it through a thought process to (hopefully) ensure that I won’t have seller’s remorse after the sale. So, I think I’ll begin this series with the tale of the one gun I bet most folks would assume I would never sell: the Beeman R1 I used as the basis to write my book, The Beeman R1 – Supermagnum Air Rifle.
The rifle I’m talking about in this report is the very airgun on the cover of my book.
Before I tell that tale, though, I think you need to know why I would ever sell any airgun. I sell them for two reasons that are really only one. And that is money. I don’t have unlimited resources, nor do I have the soul of a true collector. So, I sell some airguns to get the money to buy others.
A true collector who has no more money than I would adapt his lifestyle to the point that ownership would be all-important. He would therefore not part with a single gun; or, if he did, it would be only because he got a better one. When his house ran out of space, which is the second reason I sell, by the way, he would let airguns take over his house and his family would either understand or they would make adjustments — to the point of divorce!
I have too many airguns as it is, from a space standpoint. But I also have an understanding wife who not only supports this hobby, but has actually helped me transform it into our joint vocation over the past 16 years. Plus, she’s often suggested that we buy guns that I hadn’t planned to buy. The airguns I keep justify their storage space (somewhat) by providing a continuing resource for making a living. This very report series is a perfect example of that.
I do still sell airguns, and so the question of what gets sold and why is a valid one. And, of all the guns I should never have sold, the very one I used to write my first book, ought to top the list. Don’t you think? Yet, I did sell it about nine years ago. Why?
When I sold the .22 caliber R1 that was used as the testbed for the R1 Homebrew series of 9 articles in The Airgun Letter and then turned into several chapters in the R1 book, it was because I thought I was through with the gun. I’d used it, tuned it and generally spent so much time with it over the year I was writing the book that I was sick of it, in all honesty. I owned other spring-piston rifles that were easier to cock, easier to shoot (the R1 being a breakbarrel requires a LOT of technique to shoot well), more accurate and even more powerful. Such is the case with the Whiscombe. Never mind that I also sold the Whiscombe at the same time and to the same person who bought the R1, I still did use it as partial justification for selling the R1. Isn’t it marvelous how we can compartmentalize our minds to justify anything when we want?
The simple truth is that. at the time I got rid of both rifles, we needed the money. The newsletter was losing money due to the impact of free info on the internet, and we were edging closer and closer to the brink. Over the course of a year, I parted with many guns I wished I could have kept. Two more of them were a Zimmerstutzen rifle I wrote about in an Airgun Revue and a Sheridan Supergrade I loved. But those are tales of remorse that will not be told today.
So, yes, I sold my R1. THE R1, if you will. When I sold it, it had the Vortek gas spring installed and was in the factory stock. The gentleman who bought it wanted it because it was what it was. He owned my book and recognized what he was buying as the cornerstone of the work that produced it. He also bought my Whiscombe with its four barrels (each with the HOTS installed) and a set of numerous air transfer ports for tuning the power from 6 foot-pounds up to 30. And all the documentation from John Whiscombe about the gun!
My Whiscombe JW75 has become a very desirable collector’s item, now that they are no longer made.
I won’t disclose what he paid for those two rifles, but I didn’t sell them cheap because I needed the money, as I said. However, in the transaction I did a thing that saved the day, as things turned out. I allowed him $800 credit on a beautiful Inland M1 Carbine he traded me, so the transaction was not entirely cash. I rationalized that I would write about the carbine, then resell it for what I had valued it in the deal. Carbines had just begun to take off in the collector’s market, and it was worth about what I had allowed. I did write about it for Shotgun News, but then I discovered that I didn’t really want to get rid of it, after all.
Now, you need to know something about the other guy. He was an M1 Carbine collector and the rifle he swapped me was his personal gun. From a collection of over 30 carbines, this Inland was the one he saw as his personal gun! But he had told me I could have my pick of his carbines with the sole exception of his Irwin Pederson, which was valued at many thousands of dollars. I guess he figured I’d take a $1,500 like-new IBM, Winchester or a beautiful Rockola, or even the Garand that was an authentic Iwo Jima pickup (it was still covered with the volcanic sand!) that he offered me in a moment of weakness. You see, he REALLY wanted my R1!
But I disregarded all those choice guns and went straight for his personal Inland carbine that had an M4 bayonet with the owner’s name written on the sheath! Apparently he and I shared the same taste in military weapons. He must have really been hot for the R1 because he also threw in 500 empty carbine cartridge cases (for reloading) and 4 original magazines from WWII. Two of the magazines were still in the original WWII-era red cellophane wrappers, having never been unwrapped!
This Inland M1 Carbine was a beautiful military rifle.
The cash he paid me for the Whiscombe was substantial enough to represent the best part of a month’s income that we sorely needed at the time. With that, I figured the deal was done.
Then, we moved from Maryland to Texas, where our prosperity turned around completely. Money was no longer the pressing issue it had been, and the sale of our home in Maryland right at the peak of the real estate market erased all of our debts and set us up comfortably in our new home.
Seller’s remorse crept in, silently at first, but grew louder when the blog launched in 2005. I missed the Whiscombe as a wonderful testbed, of course, but I especially missed my good old R1. And that’s when the call came. The guy who bought my guns was interested in selling the Whiscombe back. And I was in the position of being able to afford it. I was about to head back to Maryland to have a table at a combination firearm/airgun show.
One stipulation, though. He wanted the Inland Carbine back. Actually, I was the one who raised the issue, since I didn’t quite have all the cash I needed to do the deal. And Whiscombes were starting to increase in value because John Whiscombe had announced that he was thinking of retiring. The guy made me a surprisingly fair offer, even though he was aware they were taking off, so I reciprocated by pricing the Inland at the same $800 he had valued it three years before. It was by now worth $1,200 for everything, and I had had the good sense not to unwrap the two red cellophane-wrapped magazines in a moment of weakness.
I went to Maryland, purchased the Whiscombe that he had graciously put into a fine aluminum case. At the show, I had just sold a Daisy 1894 Texas Ranger that was NIB, and was therefore flush with cash. So, when he pulled the R1 out of his car I leaped at the chance to buy it back. He had restocked it in a fine Maccari figured walnut stock, but the factory stock came with it as well.
Why did this collector suddenly become a “don’t wanter?” He had gone so far out of his way to obtain both air rifles, so why did he suddenly want to undo the deal? Well, his health was not good. He had joint problems and was not that fit, and both these rifles are heavy and require a lot of muscle to cock. The R1 had a gas spring in it that took 50 lbs. of effort to cock, and the Whiscombe needs the underlever pulled three times to cock the opposed mainsprings. So, these aren’t “all day” airguns.
Add to that the fact that my M1 carbine had increased in value by 50 percent in the three years I’d owned it. The guy was selling his carbine collection, and the buyers were paying him top prices, so as soon as he got it back, it was sold again. That created a hole in my heart for a fine shooting carbine that I haven’t yet filled.
And that is the tale of how I sold my Beeman R1 and then got it back again. I celebrated its return by writing a 13-part blog series on tuning a spring gun. I now appreciate that this rifle is very special, just because of what it has done for me.
Today the R1 looks like this. The walnut stock was finished by the temporary owner, who left it on when I bought it back. The muzzle brake is a Vortek that can be tuned for vibration. The scope is a 6-18×44 Bushnell Trophy.
I also sold the Whiscombe and got it back, as well. And now the price of Whiscombes has risen off the charts, since John finally stopped making them. That makes this a tale of two airguns I have that I intend to hold onto for the rest of my life.
This report is not what I intend doing for the rest of my airgun collection. I think a paragraph per gun is about all it should take for most of my other guns. But this story was extra special, and I felt it had to be told. I hope you can appreciate that.
More used guns
A few blogs ago, I alerted you to some used guns that I thought were special. Edith knows how much I liked the Career 707 guns, and she alerted me to three used models that Pyramyd Air recently uncovered in their warehouse. One is an older style with twin air reservoirs, another is a carbine with twin reservoirs and the last is a single-reservoir carbine.