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December 28, 2003

Knoxville Gun Show Notes Vol. II

I hadn't planned on going to the gun show today, but around 2:00 I got bored, and figured I'd shop for a .357. I couldn't decide on a revolver, but one of these followed me home:

Browning Buckmark Camper

That's the Browning Buckmark Camper. The one that followed me home has a green Tru-Glo light-gathering front sight. I knew I was going to buy a Buckmark eventually, and the price was great ($259). There were more deals today than at the past three shows. I also picked up a lightly-used red dot sight for $12 for my Winchester .22 rifle.

The dealer also had the camo model in various configurations. I'm not really a camo kind of guy, but he pointed out that the camo versions have a slightly improved slide: they have "wings" on the back that make it easier to grasp. If you are a camo kind of guy, that's another reason to go that route.

I saw one rifle that I had read about, but had never seen in the flesh: the U.S. Johnson 1941, which saw limited use in World War II. The Johnson is built around an internal, rotary magazine, hence the pot-bellied stock.

Johnson rifle of 1941

Most people have never heard of Johnson's rifle or his light machine gun. Melvin Johnson could have been as well-known as Garand or Thompson, but for the contingencies of history:

The rifle was undoubtedly quite a good design, but the US Army had, in 1936, committed themselves to the Garand, and since the Johnson design offered no advantages, it was turned down. It was, however, purchased by the Dutch government in 1941 for use by the Netherlands East Indies army and some 50,000 were made; the loss of the Indies to the Japanese prevented completion of delivery, and the US Marines took the remaining rifles since they were having difficulty obtaining their share of Garand production at the time.
- Ian V. Hogg, The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World's Firearms

m1poster.gifThe one pictured will set you back $6,250 on Gunbroker.com. The sample at the show was a bargain at $2,500. Johnsons shoot the .30-06, so in theory you could shoot them if they weren't so collectable. People who want a US military .30-06 to shoot buy the surplus M1 Garand, which is available for as little as $300 through the Civilian Marksmanship Program, though the $300 jobs are pretty clapped out, and any of the CMP guns may need some gunsmithing or even a new barrel to perform well. Surplus parts, clips, and accessories are available in abundance.

The CMP is another historical oddity. It was created in 1916 to train young men to fight the Kaiser in the trenches of Europe. It survives to this day, though Congress transferred management of the program from the U.S. Army to a non-profit 501-(c)(3) corporation in 1996.

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Posted by Les Jones