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Things I Wouldn't Do Again! (Part-1)

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In the late '60's, after signing up for the Marine Corps, I knew there was a great likelihood that I would be sent to Vietnam, and for some strange reason  I thought it might be a good idea to undergo some preparatory training in the use of automatic weapons.  Looking back on it now, I have no idea why that made sense, considering the risk and legal ramifications of getting caught in possession of a fully automatic  weapon, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I had made no attempts to obtain one, but the interest was there just the same.  I was an avid rifle and handgun aficionado, shooter, and gun collector, and spent most of my days off going around to all the gun stores, pawnshops, and estate sales in the area where I lived. I had acquired as many S&W revolvers, especially .357 Mags that I could afford. In those days, Smith and Wesson .357 cal handguns were pretty hard to come by, (as was the asking price), if you could even find the model you wanted. Model 19's and 27's were particularly scarce and the Model 28 Highway Patrolman wasn't all that common either. There was such a consumer demand for these guns, they were being rationed or allocated to dealers by the manufacturer because of production lag time, and it wasn't unusual to have to wait 6 months to a year, with your name on a waiting list for a chance on getting one. Collecting these revolvers was considered to be a good investment due to the supply and demand issues (and the accompanying price increases that closely followed) 
 I usually started out at the Sport Chalet Sporting Goods store in Pleasant Hill, CA, and on one occasion I happened to strike up a conversation with a short haired, clean cut young man in his early 20's, standing in front of the gun counter. He was admiring the S&W handguns in the display case, mostly a few .38 snubbies and a .38 cal M&P or two, along with one overpriced Mod 27 .357. The man said he was looking for a Model 28, preferably new, but he would consider a used one in good condition. Now, it just so happened that I had a spare Mod 28 .357 Mag NIB that I had paid $125.00 for. I mentioned that I had one for sale or trade and he said he was low on cash but had some guns on hand and thought we might be able to make a trade if I was interested. When I inquired about his trading material he responded vaguely and said he would like to show me what he had so I could inspect the items in person. In retrospect, I probably should have backed out then and there, but I was becoming intrigued and was anticipating the prospects of making a good deal, so I agreed to meet him the following day at a coffee shop in Oakland.  (con't)

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Things I Wouldn't Do Again (Part-2)

Upon arrival, I got in his car and he drove around randomly for 30 minutes or so, before pulling up at a residence in Oakland Hills where he introduced me to an elderly couple he said was his mom and dad. I sat in the living room while he went upstairs and returned a few minutes later dragging a large, bulky, sea bag nosily down the steps, one bump at a time. He reached in and pulled out a long, round, metal tubular section  which I recognized as a half of a Bazooka ant-tank weapon, then pulled out the other half, followed by 2 rocket rounds and placed them on the floor. Next was a military grade .30 cal M-1 carbine with attached magazine which he held out to me, asking if I liked it. I had never been a big fan of the .30 carbine round and told him so. Plus, the stock was a little rough, so I asked him what else he had. I glanced into the bag, briefly observing another carbine, plus misc items I couldn't identify. He pulled out the second carbine, which looked to be in almost unused condition (that I also started to turn down), until I saw the selector switch on the top of the receiver. He must have noticed the pleased expression on my face and said, "I knew you would like that one" I had never seen an M-2 carbine, but I knew what they were, what they looked like and what they would do. Just flip the selector switch forward and you've got a fully automatic weapon with a high cyclic rate of fire. Before we made the trade he told me he had brought all the stuff he showed me back from Vietnam as a "combat loss" and said that a condition of the trade was that I not let the gun, "fall into the wrong hands" I asked what he meant by that and he said that he belonged to a group that were, "preparing for the coming revolution" but didn't offer any further explanation.  He did say if I ever got rid of the gun to make sure I knew the person it was going to and of course, I agreed.
 I ended up with the M-2, a couple of spare magazines, plus a few hundred rounds of .30 cal military ball ammo, and I  COULD NOT WAIT to try it out. (con't)

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Things I Wouldn't Do Again (Part-3)

I called up my hunting buddy Scott, told him what I had picked up in trade and we were soon on the way to one of our favorite shooting places at an abandoned rock quarry in a rural part of the county that was usually devoid of visitors. The high stone walls of the quarry helped to mute the sound of gunfire and there were several dozed up mounds of dirt which served as a backstop to catch our rounds. We finally burned through our ammo after about an hour of learning to control the muzzle climb on full auto and learning that short bursts were better for staying on target, and for avoiding feeding malfunctions. It also helped to prevent the barrel from overheating. On the way back to our vehicle, we turned a sharp corner and I immediately saw a flash of sunlight on a gold badge pinned to a tan uniform. The Sheriff's deputy was approaching from about 50 yards away and was looking at the ground as he walked towards us down the narrow foot path we were on.
At that moment, we were passing a drainage ditch that was mostly empty of water but contained  muddy sludge that was a couple of feet deep. I launched the carbine through the air and watched it land in the mud where it lay on the surface for a few seconds before sinking slowly out of sight. We kept walking until we reached the deputy, who happened to be an animal control officer looking for stay dogs that had been reported in the area. We waited until he left the area, then I went back and waded out into the mud and retrieved the carbine. I was sweating bullets on the close call I'd had and thought about leaving it there buried in the muck. Finally, I decided that I would just get rid of it as soon as possible, so I ended up trading it to the manager of the gun department at Sport Chalet, straight across for a NIB Mod 39 S&W 9 MM DA pistol and several boxes of ammo. As it turned out, once I reached infantry training, I realized that no prior experience with an automatic weapon was necessary. It also occurred to me that running the risk of acquiring a "machine gun" on my own had been an extremely dumb idea, and looking back on it, If had it to do all over again, I wouldn't.
But now and then, in recalling the incident I find myself smiling, and I have to admit,  . . .  it was a hell of a lot of fun!

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