Waxing nostaligic… at a gunshow?!

This weekend, we checked out the Silver Spur Gun & Blade show in Albuquerque. It was held on the Expo New Mexico fair grounds in the Manuel Lujan Building. For those of you who might not be familiar with the facility, the Lujan Building is a 60,000+ sq. ft. exhibit facility. Normally about half (Building A, 26,400 +/- sq.ft.) had been made available for the Gun & Blade shows. This has led to significant overcrowding, rude & grumpy patrons, hot & stuffy exhibit halls, and vendors that spent the whole show bumping into each other behind their tables. For the December 10-11 show, both A and B halls were opened. This expanded the show to about 54,000 sq. ft. The difference was noticeable to everyone. The inside environment was cool but comfortable. The vendors were happy to be able to maneuver behind their tables without “butting” their neighbors. Patrons seemed happier and more relaxed than at any show in recent memory. It was a return to the days of the kinder, gentler, more polite gun show. Everyone – patrons, vendors and security personnel alike – was downright pleasant. Kudos to Expo New Mexico and Silver Spur Trade Shows for  working out the deal.

Remember when, ten or fifteen years back, when the SKS was all the rage? When it seemed like everybody who was anybody was selling SKS rifles, parts and accessories? When we were just certain that 7.62 x 39 was the future of firearms? When everyone was going to buy one to stay one step ahead of the sure-to-come ban on imported firearms? Well, those days seem to be gone  ̶  along with the SKS. I think I only saw one of them this weekend  ̶  and its owner was trying desperately to part with it.

Now, the rage is the M-16/AR-15 type rifle. One vendor referred to them as “adult erector set guns.” He’s not far off the mark. The rifle can be customized in a nearly infinite combination stocks, grips, barrels, muzzle brakes, and rails. The idea, they tell me, is to be able to create an optimized shooting system for each individual. The rifle, typified by the Smith & Wesson M&P-15 and the Bushmaster ACR and M4-Type Carbine, was on nearly every vendor’s table. If they didn’t carry the rifles themselves, they were stocking magazines, and/or virtually every imaginable bolt-on accessory, sling, mag pouch, tactical light, optical sight or gee-gaw. $750 could get you into a bare bones Bushmaster with iron sights and cheese grater fore end. Prices spiral upward steeply from there. For shooters, this is a near ideal situation. The weapon could be customized to the shooter’s needs   ̶  for anything from paper targets to varmint hunting. For those who are not so fond of firearms in general, however, all of these rifles are just BMG: Big Mean Guns.

I’ve shot the M&P15 in both semi- and full-auto. It’s a fun little gun. Accurate. Reliable. Heaven  knows that parts are readily available. They’re a little front end heavy for me when fully loaded with a 30-round mag of .223  ̶   you see, I’m not a big girl and my arms are short. But they’re still fun. The fun part is hitting a steel target at 50 yards in full-auto. What a rush. It’s super fun, did I mention that? I feel like a Super Warrior Woman when I shoot one. But it’s just not something I need. I mean, even if it’s fun, do I really need an assault rifle for plinking, taking small game and taking out varmints? If I were going today to pick up a rifle in .223 today it would be the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle.  Accurate and super reliable.  And MUCH less expensive than an erector set gun. For a varmint gun in the hands of a goat ranching, chicken raising, yarn farming plinker, it’s plenty enough gun.

I didn’t go to the gun show this weekend looking for a tactical weapon. I went to get a feel for the atmosphere of the show, to get my fingers on the pulse of the gun-toting and buying public. I went, thinking I would see what kind of deal I might find on a shotgun. What I found instead was a little piece of redemption. You see, many years ago, my grandfather had a J. C. Higgins Model 31 rifle. He kept it safe and cleaned and treasured it until the day he died. Before my grandfather owned it, it had belonged to his brother, my great-uncle. I lost that rifle many years ago when an evil now-ex took off with it  ̶  along with the contents of my bank accounts, my good credit rating, and all of my tools, and all of my camping, hunting and climbing gear. Of all the stuff I lost, the only thing that I really mourned was my grandfather’s rifle. Money I would earn again. Savings could be rebuilt. Tools and gear can be replaced. Climbing gear wears out and must be replaced anyway for safety’s sake. But my grandfather’s J. C. Higgins rifle? Oh, losing that hurt. I felt like I had let my grandfather down. I always promised myself that if I ever found another one, I would buy it.

This weekend, in the back corner of the exhibit hall was a vendor with a rack of cheap .22 rifles. I let my eyes wander over the rack, mostly idly, not really thinking I’d see anything worth seeing. And then I noticed a familiar profile. A slender .22 rifle with tubular magazine and a two-piece stock. Surely not, I thought. I looked again. I lifted it gently from the rack and rolled it over in my hands. Sure enough, there they were: J.C. HIGGINS MODEL 31. Just like my grandfather’s. The price wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t exactly great either. But I didn’t haggle. I didn’t bat an eye. I bought it. I bought it because I was supposed to take care of things for my grandpa and I didn’t. I bought it to tell the cosmos I was sorry for letting my grandfather’s rifle get away. I bought it to make up for lost time. I bought it to make things right.

   

As you can tell by the photos, she’s not been handled with kid gloves. She’s got scuffs and scratches. Her steel looks as though it’s been a while since anyone sat down to give her a good cleaning. She could use a little TLC, but she looks pretty good for her age. Looks like she’s been used, not just stored away. Hopefully, in the future, there will be pix of targets and cans felled by the mighty Model 31.

As always, thanks for reading and letting me wax nostalgic.

~ L.

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3 Responses to “Waxing nostaligic… at a gunshow?!”

  1. Conservative Pup Says:

    Love this post. My dad, 92, has one of those JC Higgins rifles, it’s the one he and his brother had when they were kids. I will have it someday, and I can understand your grief over having it taken from you. So glad you found another one!

    The AR’s are fun to shoot.

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    • legitimatecitizen Says:

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