Firearm Regrets: The Ones That Got Away

When you have been around firearms as long as I have (buying, selling, trading), you will invariably recall a few mistakes made along the way. You paid to much for this one, sold that one to cheap, made a bad trade, etc. However, I suppose the worst thing that happens is realizing that you should never have let a particular one get away. Having made that mistake more times than I would like to admit, I’m moving closer to the “Never Sell Anything Again — Ever” camp. I suppose I should explain how I arrived there.

Learning the Hard Way

It all started in the Stone Age when I sold a perfectly good rock, just kidding! It was late 1968. I was recently discharged from the service, had gone back to school, and had a part time job at a small gun shop in Canoga Park. My duties at Adams Gun Shop consisted of cleaning up the gunsmiths area in back, stocking shelves and display cases, and helping as directed.

Ed LaPorta with Ruger rifle and a recently harvested bobcat
A photo of the author with that magical Ruger rifle and one of the many bobcats it accounted for.

As things turned out, it was a good deal for the owner but not for me. I bought more than I made every week. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever taking home a check. Be that as it may, one day we received a shipment of the very first Ruger bolt-action rifles, the Model 77. One of them was chambered in .243 Winchester — exactly what I was looking for.

It was only $124. With my employee discount it was $100 plus tax. More than I made but such a deal. To top it off, the serial number was…. 2077, how is that for cool? It had to be an instant collectable for that alone but what did I know? At the time… not much.

I added a Redfield 3×9 scope with Redfield rings and mounts for another $114. I was in hog heaven. Now, the interesting thing about the rifle is that it was not a very precise shooter, providing 1.5- to 2-inch groups. That didn’t matter, because the really unusual asset it possessed was whatever I feed it they all shot to the same spot, so it was accurate.

At the time, I was too inexperienced to realize what a rare find I possessed. It accounted for lots of coyotes, bobcats, badgers, raccoons, and even a couple of deer with that rifle. To say it provided good service would be an understatement.

One day, I happened to stop at Andrews Sporting Goods (Andrews became Turner’s in Los Angeles) to check with my friends. I wanted to see what new stuff was in stock — big mistake! In the rack they had a brand new Browning Sako in .243 Win. It was the most beautiful rifle I had ever seen.

Ruger Model 77 chambered in .243 Winchester, right profile
This is what the very costly and time consuming transformation yielded, before it became the shooter that I hoped it would have been from the start.

The wood had great figure with a contrasting forend tip, a sexy, pencil-thin barrel with gold paint in the bottom metal engraving, and a gold plated trigger. But they wanted $450 plus tax and license. It was clearly out of my league.

My friend behind the counter, sensing my trouble, offered a solution. Hey Ed! Let me tell you what we can do for you, ’cause we know you. I’ll take the Ruger you have and give you $150 for it. You can put the Browning on layaway and give us $50 a week. I was weak and agreed to the terms…

Worst mistake I ever made. That rifle was pretty but it never did shoot. Well not until I put thousands of dollars into it, and the only part that remained was the receiver. New stock, barrel, trigger, rings, scope, mounts, and a real gold pistol grip cap with engraved monogram. It reminded me of the 1963 hit song “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul.

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

Ed LaPorta in the desert sagebrush with a recently harvested coyote
The totally customized action finally became a great shooter and accounted for lots of varmints, deer, antelope, and even some hogs.

The plain rifle made me happy. The pretty one made me spend money I did not have, was never satisfied with, and brought me nothing but misery. She was difficult, put weight on, and demanded new clothes and jewelry (in the mode of the aforementioned upgrades) — before she would even make an effort to make me happy.

Eventually, the new face lift made her happy. We finally went dancing again with no more headaches. The biggest mistake I ever made — and the one I regret the most — at least as far as guns sold, traded, or otherwise relinquished, goes anyway.

Accuracy target circ 1978
Here is the proof, a target signed by the Rangemaster verifying that the rifle did in fact become accurate and precise.

More Lessons

You’d think that would have taught me a lesson, but…. Oh, no! At around the same time as the rifle incident, I took procession of a Walther P-38 that was given to me by an older cousin who had brought it home as a war souvenir. He was not into guns and knew that I was, so he gave it to me.

Anyway, I had it for some time. However, it never really pushed my buttons, and someone I shot with occasionally wanted to trade me a shotgun for it, as I was starting to take up bird hunting. I thought it would be a good opportunity.


The trade was made. For two years or so, I used that shotgun in ignorance-induced bliss until another relative asked whether I had ‘Cousin Tom’s’ pistol — the one he took off the SS Colonel he captured and relieved of it. He then said, we got the papers proving the action, which makes that pistol worth a lot of money. That pistol, and the story, is gonna make you rich and famous. My heart sank.

I was not going to be rich, famous, or anything except stupid and short sighted. I tried to find the acquaintance I traded it to but no luck. He apparently moved out of the area. The worst part was not the money lost, but the family history and a tangible artifact tying me to it was lost forever. With Cousin Tom’s passing, my only physical tie and memento to him and his brave deeds was lost forever. I am diminished by its loss.

Walther P38 pistol, left profile
The SS Colonel’s P38.

Final Thoughts

By now, you would think that I would have learned my lesson. Of course, I have not. It’s against human nature to not think we are smarter than we are. I certainly have many more sales I have regretted, certainly far too many than can be related here. If you don’t think we are genetically bound to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, I suggest you read some of Victor Davis Hanson’s work.

The really hard prospect to come to grips with (now that I am a certified geezer) is that I can’t take my collection with me. I know I should sell, donate, give, or make plans to will everything to those I would want to have them, but I still hold on to the misguided belief that there is still one more Safari, big game hunt to be taken, and there are certainly plenty of varmint hunts and bird hunts left in me. But are there?

I would like to hold onto the idea that there are. So long as the tools are still in the safe, I can still entertain thoughts that there really are adventures awaiting my participation. Holding and cleaning them keeps the dreams and memories alive. And maybe, just maybe, the regret of parting with them has more to do with the dreams than the items themselves. Don’t we all regret unrequited dreams and our own mortality?

Stay safe, train often, and practice, practice, practice!

Do you have a favorite firearm or two that got away? Which ones do you regret most? Share your story in the Comment section.

Source link: by Ed AKA “The Real Most Interesting Man in The World” LaPorta at