The Ones That Got Away

Most any firearms enthusiast (sounds much better than “gun nut”) can tell a story about a gun they regret losing, whether to casualty, sale or a trade. Any time we get rid of a gun, whatever we received in monetary gain, whether from a cash sale or an insurance claim, is long gone before the memory fades. Sometimes, bad things happen, and we have no control over losses from fire or theft. Yet, it is the sales of special firearms that we live to regret.


Over the years, I have accumulated a few firearms. I’m not a collector. My guns get shot. All of them.

I often get e-mails from fellows asking whether or not they should shoot a particular gun. My answer is always, “Shoot it and enjoy it!” Why would one want to save it? Not firing a special gun is like having a pretty girlfriend and not kissing her, saving her for the next guy. Makes no sense. Shoot the gun—but care for it, and it will outlast your grandkids. However, trade it off or sell it, and in a month, you will have neither the gun nor the money. Makes no sense.


There are a few guns that are now long gone about which I have regrets.

I bought my first handgun when I was 16. I was still in school, working after school hours. I saved up enough money to buy a Ruger Security-Six .357 Magnum. This was in 1976. Like all Ruger firearms manufactured that year, it bore the inscription, “Made In The 200th Year of American Liberty.” I loved that blued, 4-inch .357. Dandy sixgun!

A few years later, a friend was joining the sheriff’s office in the next county over, and he needed to borrow a revolver until he could buy his own. I lent him the Ruger. A couple of months later, he lost it in a card game. I still have the friend, but the sixgun is long gone. I felt like choking him until his head turned blue, but friends are more important than guns.

I threw away a gun once. That one I do not regret. It was a Clerke .22 revolver. It was a cheap gun when new, but I bought it used at a police auction for $4. That little, chrome-plated revolver spit so badly out of the barrel/cylinder gap that I wouldn’t even sell or trade it. It is likely still in the bottom of the Cumberland River.

(Zinc doesn’t rust.)


A Savage Model 99368—not the one the author sold that was previously owned by Hank Williams Jr. but one just like it. It’s one rifle the author wishes he could have back.

A Savage Model 99368—not the one the author sold that was previously owned by Hank Williams Jr. but one just like it. It’s one rifle the author wishes he could have back.

Another firearm I do very much regret losing was due to a hasty sale. Back in the late 1970s, Savage manufactured a special version of the Model 99 rifle, designated Model 99-368. Only manufactured for three years, it wore a straight buttstock and used the famous Savage rotary magazine system.

I lusted for one badly but never came across one in the flesh—until one day, I walked up to the gun counter in Uncle Lee’s Sporting Goods store in Paris, Tennessee. Back then, a sporting goods store was not about running shoes and tennis rackets. A sporting goods store was about hunting and fishing, and Uncle Lee’s always had a large stock of guns for sale.

On the “used” rack was a pristine Model 99-358; the first I had ever seen. It was almost a religious experience: the rifle of my dreams, for sale, at a good price. A local fellow who owned a ranch near Paris was country music singer Hank Williams Jr., who often bought and sold guns through Uncle Lee’s. He would buy something, change his mind, and it ended up for sale on consignment. As it turned out, this one was his.

I quickly bought the rifle and enjoyed it for a few years. It was deadly accurate, especially with Hornady 200-grain Spire Point bullets. It would put them all touching at 100 yards, which is great accuracy for a hunting lever-action rifle. I was pleased.

Because I was a young father with a mortgage and all the other stuff of young adulthood, I had to sell that rifle to pay for adult stuff, but that is the one firearm I most regret losing. The money probably went immediately for a house payment, electricity, food or some other such nonsense, but I would really love to have that one back.


Other than those two, I don’t have many regrets. I have traded off or sold other guns, such as polymer semiauto pistols or AR-15 rifles and the like, but none of those was special to me. Just tools.

I now have more guns than I need, but they are not in the way. Every time I load up and head to a large gun show, I walk into the vault and look around, searching for some good trading material; some gun that I can swap for another.

I end up loading only empty gun cases for the trip, because it pains me to get rid of good firearms.



Jeff Quinn is a full-time writer/reviewer on Gunblast. com, an online gun magazine started in 2000. He has also written for the Gun Digest Annual and enjoys living life in the woods of Tennessee, where he raises Longhorn cattle … and his grandkids.




Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the November 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.

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