September 17, 2020
A friend gifted me the October 1960 issue of Guns & Ammo a few weeks ago. I thumbed through the pages and was intrigued by an advertisement for Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago, Illinois.
Klein’s list would make any gun collector want to invent a time machine. An M1 Garand costed $79.95. A Webley Mk. VI revolver was only $14.95, and an Enfield No. 4 Mk. T sniper rifle, with the original 4X scope, was $49.95! My personal favorite — the Smith & Wesson M1917 — could be bought for just $29.95.
Today, knowing that many can’t afford to purchase a new self-defense gun in such uncertain times, I began my own search for surplus bargains. After surveying the market, these are my top three used-handgun choices, in-stock and at different price points, making time travel a thing of the past.
Star BM 9mm
A compact version of the Model B, the Star BM 9mm is a slim, all-steel, single-action handgun that fires from an 8-round magazine. It’s also a serviceable pistol that resembles a Model 1911 Commander in 9mm, but lacking the 1911’s grip safety along with a few other design differences. Some 217,682 Modelo BM pistols were made by Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A., from 1972 to 1992. Initially sold to Libya, Rhodesia, South Africa and Spain, they were used in the Rhodesian Bush War, the Libyan Civil War and the South African Border War. There have been a number of BM importers, and Star reworked many of the trade-ins. Also interesting to note is this pistol’s popularity with filmmakers due to its resemblance to the Model 1911 and ease to convert for shooting 9mm blanks.
Cugir TT Tokarev, 7.62x25mm
Fedor Tokarev’s TT-33 pistol was designed and tested in 1930 as a replacement for the Nagant M1895 revolver. Its platform was based on John Browning’s FN Model 1903, and its design based around firing the powerful 7.62x25mm Tokarev — a cartridge based on the 7.63x25mm Mauser used in the Mauser C96. (Historical footnote: It’s been written that during World War II, the Wehrmacht used their own 7.63x25mm Mauser ammunition in captured Tokarev pistols.) The TT-33 served the Soviet Union through 1952 but went on to be produced (in one variation or another) by most Soviet-Bloc countries. Today, the 1950’s-produced Romanian variant of the “TTC” is the most common example for sale in the U.S. More than 75 years later, surplus Tokarev variants and new-production ammo are still widely available from online retailers at reasonably inexpensive prices. Although some are crude, these TT’s have a reputation for delivering great performance by collectors who enjoy shooting these guns.
Smith & Wesson Model 64-7, .38 Special
Like many surplus handguns offered today, these 64-7 revolvers are police trade-ins, and as is often suggested, were carried often and shot little. The S&W Model 64-7 is based on the robust and reliable K-frame, and the stainless-steel models were introduced in 1981. These revolvers wear a fixed ramped sight and grooved rear notch, and are chambered for .38 Special. The model number’s suffix “-7”dates the manufacture period after 1998, which means these guns are not very old. The 64-7 use of several metal-injection-molded (MIM) parts and maligned internal locking system prevents its collectability potential. However, with new Model 64s having the suggested retail price of $693, surplus examples are a very affordable alternative.
Going, going, gone!
The surplus gun scene is constantly changing. I procrastinated and missed the opportunity to purchase a police trade-in P226 and P229 in .40 S&W for $379.95 because I thought they might come available in 9mm. Friends, the lesson I learned is that if you think you might want it, don’t wait too long.
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