Gun(s) That Got Away Part II: Mike

Gun that Got Away

If you’re a RevolverGuy, you’ve got one. A story, that is, about “the one that got away.”   Actually, if you’re like me, you probably have several, but there’s one that just nags at you more than the rest, and which probably says more about you and your tastes than all the others. As I sit here thinking about it, there’s a handful of lost ballistic opportunities that still sting.  Some of them were mine for the asking, others were just long shots, but all of them make me wonder, “what if?”

Close Seconds

There was the time that a pair of middle-aged women walked into the legendary King’s Gun Works in Glendale, California (RIP!), with a minty-looking Winchester 94, looking for an offer.  Winchester had stopped making the Model 94 just a few years before, and prices were climbing, so I was immediately interested and worked my way to a position where I could hear the conversation with the clerk.  The clerk made a reasonable offer, but the women didn’t bite. Instead, they walked out the door to shop the levergun around for a better price.  I only had enough in my wallet for lunch that day, but always wondered what would have happened if I’d followed them out into the parking lot and offered to beat the price by $50, if they followed me back into the store to do the paperwork.  I think they might have done it, but I’ll never know.

There was the Model 66 with the chipped stocks and the broken ejector rod lockup in the underlug.  The gun wasn’t a prime specimen, and would require some work to make it functional, but there was a shortage of pre-lock Smith & Wessons behind The Golden Curtain (then and now), and I had been wanting a stainless version of the Combat Magnum for many years.  I passed it up at first, but went back the next day because I decided it was worth the effort.  Yeah, you know how this ends.  It was gone.

You’d think that I would have learned, but I did the same thing to a neglected Model 14 a few years later.  It seemed OK—mechanically–but the grips were cracked, the finish was worn, and there was light surface rust, which was funny because the insides had been over-lubricated and were full of gummy oil residue.  She needed a good cleaning and new stocks to start with, and chances were good that she’d need some new springs (and possibly some other light maintenance) to get her up to speed, but the bones were there.  I’d always had a passionate interest in the K-38, and desperately wanted a clean one in my collection, but they just never showed up where I was looking.  I passed on this one because it had been rode hard and put away wet, and I didn’t know if I wanted a project gun.  Later that week I convinced myself that a good rebluing and a few parts could save this grand old gun from an ending that it didn’t deserve, but I guess someone else recognized the beauty in the rough before I did, and snatched it up before I got there.

We all have “that shop” in our AOR where the manager seems to think everything he has is made of gold, and deserves a hefty markup.  I was browsing in mine one day and saw a pretty clean Smith & Wesson Model 68 with CHP markings sitting next to a similar Smith & Wesson Model 67 with CHP markings.  Obviously, some former “Chippy” had traded in his old duty guns to finance whatever he had a hankering for, and there they sat, waiting to come home with me.  I was turned off by the price tags, both of which were about a C-Note too high, so I passed them by.  I kept coming back to look at them though, and for months and months they were always there on the shelf to greet me . . . until one day they weren’t.  Looking back, I probably should have paid the markup to keep the guns “in the family.” If I’d bought that 68, I wouldn’t have had to borrow one for my story here in the pages of, and could have photographed it with a matching 67 to boot!  Ah well.

The One

The one that really bugs me though will probably come as a surprise, because it’s the most pedestrian of them all.  I was browsing in a shop and a young lady walked in with a blue Smith & Wesson cardboard box in her hands.  She went to the counter and took a spot right next to me, and the clerk came over to see how he could help her.

She explained that she had just broken up with a boyfriend who had purchased this gun for her, and she wanted to get rid of it.  She had never fired it, and didn’t know what it was worth, but she wanted to see what their best price was.

Opening the box and unwrapping the brown, waxed paper with the S&W logo revealed a 4”, bull barrel, Model 10 with walnut grips. The manual and string hang tag were there in the box, too. This was a factory-new gun.  It didn’t even look like there were fingerprints on it. It may have never come out of the box.

The clerk took the gun in the back to consult with the owner and while he was gone, I had a quick conversation with the young lady.  I explained that she couldn’t expect them to offer her what her boyfriend had originally paid for it, because they deserved to make a profit on the gun, but given the condition, she deserved a better than average price.  I told her what a fair offer for the gun would be, and encouraged her to try another place or sell it privately if she didn’t get it.

The clerk came back in a few minutes and gave her an absolutely ridiculous, low ball price.  Honestly, it was insulting.  There were Jennings .22s in the case I was leaning on that cost as much.  It was clear they were trying to take advantage of her. She glanced at me quickly and saw my frown, and told the clerk she wanted more.  The clerk insisted it was their final offer, so she smartly walked out the door with the mint M&P.  I silently wished her well.

I wanted to chase after her and make a fair offer for the gun, but I was TDY to the location on military orders and wasn’t a resident of the state we were standing in, so it wouldn’t have been legal. I had no choice but to watch that beautiful, heavy barrel Smith walk away with a girl that now knew what she had. Actually, I hope she kept it and learned how to use it.

What’s It All Mean?

A 4” M&P isn’t going to turn any heads.  It’s not expensive, it’s not unique, and it’s not exciting.  When it comes to guns, it’s about as simple and boring as you can get, and if you told a gun guy you were Jonesing for one, he’d probably laugh at you. No matter.  It suits me just fine.

I’m a blue steel and walnut, .38 Special kind of guy. There’s more sophisticated, powerful and ornate guns out there, but I’m a simple guy at heart and my taste in guns is too. I’ve never been much for bling, bells, and whistles, and have always appreciated basic, rugged, dependable designs. While I genuinely appreciate and admire the beauty and grace of engraved steel, fancy finishes, and exotic wood, I’ve always reserved them as a playground for other people. There’s a classic, honest, subtle beauty in blue steel and walnut that my eye and soul appreciates like no other.

Stainless and the new high-tech finishes are more durable and require less care than blued steel, but I was taught that a warrior maintains his weapons, like a craftsman takes care of his tools, so a little extra maintenance never scared me. My Great-Grandfather chased Pancho Villa around Mexico as a U.S. Army cavalry officer with a blued Colt on his hip, and later took it to Europe to defeat the Kaiser. None of the rifles, submachineguns, or carbines my Grandfather used to chase the Nazis around North Africa and Europe, or the ChiComs around Korea, were stainless. My Dad worked the streets for decades with a blued Colt on his Sam Browne.  All of them managed to keep their arms in good order, so I can do the same.

I have friends who revel in the latest advancements and have to live on the cutting edge of technology, but I’m the one who’s more comfortable with the old and the proven. I’m the traditionalist, the conservative, the one who wears stuff out.  I’m the guy who sometimes wishes he still had his flip phone, who will go to his grave without ever having had a Facebook account, and who’s still driving a 1989 Ford F-150 because it does everything I want it to.  It’s plain, unsophisticated, and old, but it’s in good shape, has classic good looks, and it works . . .

. . . just like that beautiful Model 10, “the one that got away.”

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Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a bonafide revolver nut, a certified law enforcement instructor in handgun, shotgun, patrol rifle, less-lethal, and diversionary device disciplines, and the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. Mike wrote the "Tactical Analysis" column at for 8 years, and enjoys teaching both armed citizens and law enforcement officers.

17 thoughts on “Gun(s) That Got Away Part II: Mike”

  1. Great story as always. Who knows, maybe that woman is still shooting her Model 10 and will find this site.
    So King’s Gun Works, eh? You have a secret 1911 fetish you want to share?…
    I grew up in Burbank so Kings Gun Works and B&B Guns (of No. Hollywood shootout fame) were my local gun stores. Spend quite some time browsing their collections in the 90s.

    1. Ah, B&B . . . haven’t heard that name in a while! I spent a few Simoleons there, back in the day. I wish I had bought that extra Steyr GB magazine they had on the shelf!

      But the one I really miss is King’s. That place was truly a treasure. It’s sad to think it’s gone now. Same with the old Pachmayr store. You know, there will come a day when nobody will believe that SoCal was the cradle of firearms development at one time. All the landmarks like King’s, Pachmayr, Armalite, Weatherby, Leatherslap, and so on have been erased.

      My 1911 interest is far from a fetish, but I have a healthy respect for America’s Gun. I’m an equal opportunity powder burner. Revolvers will always be closest to my heart, but there’s room in my safe for square guns too. The world is round, but there are still straight edges and corners to be found in nature. ; ^ )

  2. Kinda wish I’d passed this story up; got me sitting here thinking about some of my ‘butt-kicking guns’–you know, the ones that were traded and sold, and if you think about them too much, you wanna kick your own butt. I’d make a list, but it would be long and boring.
    Funny, the vast majority of them, I can’t tell you what they were traded for, or what I bought with the money when they were sold, but can sure tell you which ones I wish I’d never…….

    Sorry for the pause, I had to reach for a Kleenex. Ace

  3. Oh boy… to find a nice bull barrel model 10… I would love to come across one of those as well… My recent “just kick me” moment involved a S&W .44 special Thunder Ranch model that I couldn’t quite afford. I was all set to bargain the store down a little as it sat in the case for a month or so, but of course it inevitably disappeared. Sigh.

  4. Let’s see . . .
    2.5″ S&W M19
    4″ S&W M19, pinned & recessed, with target hammer and trigger
    4″ S&W M28 ‘Highway Patrolman’
    5″ S&W M27, nickel, marked from Florida Highway Patrol
    5″ Colt Trooper, .357 (pre 1969), nickel, marked Florida Highway Patrol
    A set of SIX S&W M686 CS-1M – all in box, three were 4″, three were 3″

    . . . those among too many others went in the renal failure fund raising sale.

    I did retain my S&W M66-4, 4″ RB (pre lock)
    S&W M67-2, 4″ pencil barrel
    S&W M65-5, 3″

    1. Brother, I think we need to make you President of our support group! Must have been difficult, but you made the right choice.

  5. Oh yeah, I don’t think one can be a “Revolver Guy” without at least a handful of these stories.

    The one that still bugs me the most is when Buds Gun Shop had a run of S&W Model 21’s a few years ago, of the Thunder Ranch re-make era, but without the gold logo for . . . makes me weep just typing this . . . $650.

  6. Great story, Mike. Good on ya for educating that young lady on that model 10 of hers. Good karma, if nothing else. I’m with Ryan, though, in hoping that she ended up keeping it. Who knows how that old revolver might have ended up touching her life?

    I’ve never sold a gun, so don’t have any tales of woe from that end. But I’ve always been partial to S&W and just wish I’d picked up a few more of their grand old wheelguns before they went and put that godforsaken internal lock on ’em. Who, back in the day, could ever have imagined they would ever do such a thing?

    Looking forward to your story on the Model 66. My dad carried a Colt Detective Special most of his career in plainclothes. A couple years before he retired his department issued him a round butt 2 1/2″ Model 65. He never much cared for the larger, heavier Smith and gave it to me shortly after the retirement party. I put a set of the S&W Goncalo Alves Combat stocks on it and that helped its shootability immensely. But I always wished they’d issued 66’s instead. I was a handloader even then and always rued that my 65 didn’t have adjustable sights.

  7. Guns that got away, I have a few.

    The one that comes to mind, apropos to the blog’s revolver focus: Mid to late ’90s some time, in one of the gun stores I would frequent some guy was trying to sell or trade a Taurus .44 Special snubby. He and the proprietor could not reach agreement.

    I still regret not catching up with the guy in the parking lot and making him an offer. I know, “just a Taurus”, but I’ve wanted one of those .44s for a while.

  8. I only have one, that I wish I’d kept !! It was a Colt Officer Model Target .38 Spl. (Fifth series), complete with box & papers.

  9. My story did not involve a missed opportunity. In 1985, I had a long weekend off and decided to go for a 150 mile drive to the Melbourne (FL) gun show from my home in Miami. I was single at the time and had a few spare coins.

    The only gun I possessed that I was not in love with was a pre-owned PPK/s in .22. One of those guns you buy, but then later try to rationalize why.

    Shortly after entering the show, a vendor calls me to his table wanting a look/see. Asking me if I see anything of interest on his table, my heart skipped a beat when I spotted a 1953 vintage S&W M1950, pre M21! The Smith had been reblued, but it was clean and locked up well.

    I gave the gent my Walther and $100 and home we went!

    Well that summer I fell in love and six months later tied the knot. To cut to the chase, two daughters later, a larger “family” car and a hefty mortgage…and you know the rest of the story.

    To this day, I still ponder what else I could have sold off instead.

  10. I seem to be late to the conversation, but it sparked some old memories.

    As a young NCO (Crew Chief) back in the 80s I swapped, bartered and traded several handguns and somehow wound up with a 5″ Model 10 that I really wasn’t sure I wanted. It had fixed sights, small stocks and an “odd” barrel length…but that rascal shot like nobody’s business. It came to be a favorite woods loafing gun, and weekends would find it close at hand.

    On leave and visiting with my in-laws, my Father-in-Law (Retired Army and working as a security guard) fell in love with it at first sight. After much discussion and with a bit of anguish (on my part), I left the old .38 with him and a promise that he’d leave it to me when he no longer needed/wanted it. I saw it and shot it a few times over the years, but when he passed, my old gun seemed to disappear.

    Of all the guns that I’ve ever owned, THAT was my “One That Got Away.”

    Now if were talking about “shoulda bought,” there was a pair of 4″ blued, 9mm, Speed-Sixes…But that’s another story. Thanks for listening y’all, DB

    1. DB, it’s never too late for a great story and memory! I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with a soft spot for the simple Model 10. It sounds like your father in law enjoyed it as much as you did, so at least it was loved and cared for when it was out of your hands. Thanks for sharing!

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