I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that enjoys hunting and target shooting with long guns. But it wasn't until after my 21st birthday that I got bitten by the handgun bug. It all started when a good friend invited me to go shoot center-fire revolvers with him at an indoor range. I became particularly fond of his 2" barrel Ruger SP101, even though I couldn't yet produce very good groups with it. Recognizing my growing enthusiasm, my friend gave me the SP101. And the rest, as they say, is history.
During those early years as a handgunning enthusiast, I had a voracious appetite to try different makes, models and calibers. Unfortunately, I had a very limited shooting budget to work with. Sometimes I traded what I had to get something new or I just had to walk away from the deals I could not afford. Although my collection wasn't big or fancy (ugly guns were the least expensive after all), it was always interesting.
Eventually, I settled down into a stable set of gear. But looking back, I can think of a few guns that were either traded away or never purchased that I wish were now part of my collection.
3. Smith & Wesson 1006 10 mm Pistol The first indoor range at which I spent time, during the mid 1990s, was physically attached to a cop shop, meaning, a store that specialized in law enforcement equipment. They often had interesting and unusual guns due to their connections to the local and state police agencies.
I had been visiting for a few months when they put up a display for what they said were a unique set of stainless steel Smith & Wesson pistols. According to the staff, the semi-autos had originally been ordered for an East Coast police agency that decided to go with another make and model. So the shop had a few of these canceled guns, brand new, packaged with three yellow follower magazines and available while supplies lasted.
I asked to look at one, and learned it was the Model 1006, chambered for the potent 10 mm cartridge. It was a big pistol with that authoritative weight that comes with an all-stainless construction. I can't say for sure now what the exact model was, but it had a 5" barrel and adjustable sights.
The clerk assured me the gun was a real steal at the price they were selling them for, which I believe was somewhere in the neighborhood of $600. I was intrigued, but in those days that amount of money was a fortune. Add to the fact that the ammunition was scarce and expensive, and the deal was a no-go for me. Soon all of the pistols were gone.
The 1006 is a platform that has garnered fans and critics alike. I would eventually have a chance to spend some quality time with the 4506 in .45 ACP. It was fun to shoot and gave me an idea of what it would be like to run the 1006. As much as I would like to have a 1006 now, what I really lost out on by walking away that day was the opportunity to discover the 10 mm cartridge. It would be the better part of two decades before the 10 mm popped back up on my radar, and I wish it had happened much sooner.
2. FN 1910 .32 ACP Pistol Many handgun enthusiasts think of John Browning as the inventor of the 1911 pistol. Although they have not been as enduring and popular as his slab-side .45, his other pistol designs were quite varied and successful in their time.
One model that demonstrates Mr. Browning's preference for carry pistols with sleek profiles and rounded lines is the FN 1910 hammerless .32 ACP. Produced by Fabrique Nationale (FN) from 1910 to 1983, these svelte blowback-operated pistols used a then unique recoil spring configuration with the spring fitted over a fixed barrel instead of a guide rod (a design choice that would later be adopted by other manufacturers like Walther for the PPK).
The example of the FN 1910 that caught my eye one day was in pristine condition. Although the seller said the serial number indicated the little .32 was manufactured before World War II, it looked like it had just come off of the factory assembly line. It was simply a beautiful little piece of firearm history, and he only wanted about $300 for it.
But I did the usual humming and hawing that seems to be mandatory before buying used guns. It must have been a long consideration because the proprietor began to get annoyed. The strongest internal argument against the purchase at that moment in time was the classic buzz kill that collectors hate to hear, especially inside their own heads. It was the "But what are you going to use it for?" argument (you know, the voice of reason, which sounds just like my wife). The gun was functional, but it was a collectable that was never going to see any holster time.
So, I went with the default Gun Purchase Plan that my spouse and I have used to preserve marital harmony for quite some time now. The plan is to simply walk away, sleep on it, and come back the next day if it still seems like a good idea. I walked away and the next day pistol was gone. Looking back over the possible deals that could have been made over the years, the policy of walking away has served me well about 90 percent of the time. But that little FN falls into that other 10 percent.
1. Smith & Wesson 696 .44 Special For those of us who have engaged in gun trading, there is always that one particular swap that qualifies for the Golden Gaffe award. Thinking back on it is accompanied by face-palms, sighs and phrases like, "What was I thinking?"
For me, the gun I really wish I had never sold was a Smith & Wesson Model 696. Constructed of stainless steel, the 696 is an L-Frame 5-shot .44 Special with a 3" full-lug barrel and adjustable sights. When I found it (underpriced) in a small mom-and-pop shop, I was on the lookout for one of the exclusive edition Smith & Wesson 629 6-shot .44 Magnums with a 2" barrel to use as a trail gun. But they were tough to find at the time, either new or used. In looking the 696 over, it proved to be in very good condition. So, I decided to take it home and use it as a kind of place holder until a snubby 629 came along to replace it.
Soon the 696 was being used in a variety of rolls. It was a great trail gun, if a bit underpowered for some people’s taste. Although it was on the heavy side when compared to something like a J-Frame .38, it was a good size for in-the-waistband concealed carry, it fit neatly into a strong box for home defense, and it packed plenty of punch. It shot accurately, it was nicely balanced and the recoil was easy to manage thanks to the extra weight of the steel frame and barrel. I really liked the gun, but at the time I saw it as just a stop-gap until I could get something “better.”
All too soon (according to my thinking today), that fateful day arrived when a local shop acquired a used 2" 629 at a price I could afford with a trade-in. I should have known I was making a mistake when the clerk's eyes bugged out at the sight of the 696 and he literally ran to his boss to tell him what I had brought into the shop. But as is so often the case, I was in such a hurry to get what I wanted that I didn't appreciate what I already had. Over the counter went the 696 along with some cash to seal the deal, and the 629 followed me home.
In the years since, I have learned that the smallest gun is not always the best one for concealed carry, nor is the most powerful cartridge available always required for self defense. The 696 was, and still is, an ideal choice for many of my needs. At this point, it seems like the chances of finding another example of this revolver in good condition are slim to none. But then again, there’s a whole country’s worth of mom-and-pop shops still to be explored.