A Simple Way to Collect

Towsley talks about starting a simple gun collection
Towsley: The key to firearm collecting is keep it simple They tell us that collections say a lot about the collector.

For example when my son was 5 we discovered his “booger collection” hidden behind his dresser. That said he was a small boy with little money to spend on collections. It also told us that, like most little boys, he was into gross things and had no idea about hygiene. That’s why we as parents are charged with teaching our kids about the important things in life. Today that “little boy” is a full-grown man and he collects guns. Which I hold as proof that I taught him well.

Sociologists have used “collections” as archeological clues to the personalities of the owners for years. But, someone looking at my gun buying and trading over the past 40-plus years would have a much harder time figuring out much about me. It is without a doubt “collecting” but also without an easily identifiable central theme. That’s because I like all guns. If it shoots, I like it, and I probably have had a representative of the species in my “collection” at some time over the years.

All the centerfire rifles will testify to the fact that I love big game hunting. They might also tell the sociologists trying to figure this out that I like to experiment, as I have bought far too many different cartridge chamberings than necessary just to hunt. In fact, I egotistically challenged an ammo maker a while back that over the years I have owned a rifle to shoot any cartridge he loaded. He quickly named several cartridges that I never possessed. I not only had to eat crow, but I quickly had to modify my collection to correct the deficit.

See how this works?

Heck, I have added guns to my collection just because I bought some ammo. For example I found a big bag of .30 Remington ammo in a gun shop years ago, which, because the price was right, I had to buy. I didn’t have a rifle, so I had to go out and buy one to use the ammo. Any gun guy understands the logic.

I like bird hunting and have a bit of a passion for double barrel shotguns. I can’t afford the double guns I want, but have learned to live with those I have. My old Lefever has been with me for 40 years, while my Fox Sterlingworth is newer to my collection and I have had it only a decade. Most true double gun collectors would scoff at them both.

The phases that I pass through result in a lot of guns coming and going. For awhile I was big into handgun hunting, so I had a “collection” of big-bore revolver and single-shot handguns.

When I got into handgun competition there were sub-categories. In my bulls-eye shooting days I bought guns like the Smith & Wesson Model 41. Then, when I shot IHMSA, it was TC Contenders and Ruger Super Blackhawk revolvers. During my PPC phase I bought K-frame S&W revolvers. With IPSC it was 1911 handguns.

When I took up Cowboy Action Shooting my “collection” sprouted multitudes of lever-action rifles and single-action handguns; as well as several new double-barreled shotguns and Winchester 1897 pump-action shotguns. It might appear like I was a fan of the late 1800s guns, but mostly I was searching for guns that would help me win.

A few years ago I discovered “black guns” and my collection of AR type rifles expanded. That led to three-gun competition, which meant I also had to come up with some high-capacity, semi-auto shotguns and handguns. The first one you pick is never the right one, so that led to more. One is traded or sold to finance the next. There is no end to the scrounging, trading and finagling a competitor will do to afford a gun that might help him win a cheap, plastic trophy.

I have over the years tried dozens of self-defense handguns, ranging from the Kel-Tec .32 ACP semi-auto through several 1911 .45 ACP carry guns. I experimented with the “revolver vs. semi-auto” thing as well as checking out all the popular cartridges. This has, of course, resulted in a lot of handguns passing through my “collection.”

Friends make collecting fun.
Friends and family make collecting all the more fun.

My muzzleloading “phase” has been in full bloom for about thirty years and I have tried everything from flintlock rifles as long as I am tall to modern in-line “magnum” hunting rifles with high-dollar scopes. That includes of course several ML shotguns and handguns.

When I was writing my gunsmithing book I discovered that one of the best escapes and stress relievers is to rebuild and refinish old, beat up guns. So, there have been several in my collection that came to me as rejects. Most of them had been beaten down by life and were battered, scarred and unloved. I bought them because nobody else would. I took them in and gave them a new lease on life. After a “makeover” they were again viable hunting guns, which was a big boost to their self esteem. In truth they still are not worth much, but collecting is not just about money.

I love to prowl around in gun shops and gun shows, but that can be dangerous if I have money or a credit card in my pocket and has led to several new guns over the years. I have always liked the Remington pump-action centerfire rifles and use the newer 760 and 7600 models for deer hunting. But, I found the older guns are interesting and affordable. Once you buy one, you need more, so I wound up writing checks for several Model 14, Model 141 and Model 25 pump-action guns in obsolete cartridges just so I could “give them a try.”

I can’t afford to collect the “collector’s guns” like some guys. I know gun guys with enough money to pay off my mortgage invested in just a few guns. That’s not for me; I am more of a quantity-oriented guy. So I buy the guns nobody else wants. It has resulted in some interesting finds, like a  Winchester Model 1907 .351 Self Loader or a little Winchester Model 53 carbine in .25-20. But I have also picked up some oddballs like a Montgomery Ward rifle that is clearly a Winchester Model 70, a Savage Super Sporter in .30-30, or a Russian 1895 7.63X38R revolver. Collectively I paid about as much for all of them as a single monthly mortgage payment.

Sometimes I buy a gun because I feel sorry for it. I bought a Model 200K Mossberg pump action shotgun that the boys here at Camp Towsley say is the ugliest gun ever to spend a night in the vault. This thing has a clubby, full-length wooden stock and is pumped with a plastic shoe that rides underneath.  It did look like a lonely, cross-eyed, fat girl sitting alone at the dance and I just couldn’t let it stay in that gunshop, so I wrote a check and gave it a loving home.

Over the years, in my collection, and for no good reason, you might find a Japanese Taisho 14 Nambu pistol and an Arisaka rifle in 6.5 Jap and a Savage Model 1915 .32 ACP pistol. Also an interesting little Belgien (their spelling) BAR PISTOL, double-barrel handgun. This flat-sided gun has a folding trigger and a small button on top that activates a lever. The lever also has the rear sight at its pivot point. You fire the two shots, push the button and rotate the cylinder, by hand, 180 degrees and fire two more. A rod unscrews from the bottom of the grip and is used to push out the spent cartridges. How cool is that gun?

I think you probably are getting the picture. I collect guns. That means all guns. I could never focus on a single group or a specific model. The world of guns is far too broad, diverse and interesting for that. I would simply be bored to death.


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