The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. What a timeless truism. Back in my day the Internet was called books. I spent many a rabid hour poring over the JC Penney Christmas catalog in the days leading up to the Big Event. I could only imagine the sparkly swag that Santa might shove down the chimney to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World. The enthusiasm with which my brothers and I ravished that tome bordered upon unseemly.
Ours was a family of modest means, so the Christmas haul was never quite insane. However, it was still the hands-down highlight of the year. It was in the runup to this most commercialized of holiday seasons that the most fun was to be had. While some of my wish list bordered upon the absurd, it still made for some simply rabid anticipation.
I have half a century under my belt nowadays, and being Santa brings me a great deal more satisfaction that being the recipient of his largess. Despite my advanced age, I can still derive a great deal of satisfaction out of fantasizing over the ideal loadout for Santa’s sleigh. While much of this will seem impractical, that is the nature of the typical gun nerd’s wish list.
The M203 Grenade Launcher
Talk about the ultimate stocking stuffer. The M203 entered service in the latter days of the Vietnam War and melded the firepower of the grenade launcher with the precision of an Infantry rifle. The 40mm grenade launcher was referred to as the Platoon Leader’s Artillery by the grunts that serviced it.
Grenade launchers are classified as Destructive Devices (DD) in the eyes of the government, and they require a $200 transfer tax and a bit of paperwork to own. Transferring a DD technically requires a Destructive Device license, something that is about as common in the Real World as fiscal restraint in Washington. However, the BATF will allow DD’s to move through conventional Class III dealers one at a time so long as the volume doesn’t become excessive.
While many munitions manufacturers don’t care for the business of the typical American civilian shooter, Lewis Machine and Tool is a gleaming exception. Their grenade launchers are military grade, and they sell directly to the public. High Explosive rounds are unobtainable, but the wares from ReloaderShells.com are just about the coolest exotic ammunition in the world. 12-gauge adaptors, smoke rounds, flechette loads, and beehive cartridges that fire four .410 shotgun shells simultaneously will put the thump in your thumper. An LMT M203 will cost you about $1,600 before the transfer tax.
The Barrett M82A1
The M82A1 .50BMG Anti-Materiel Rifle has become an American icon. Long recoil operated in the manner of the Browning Auto-5 shotgun, the M82A1 is the very embodiment of man-portable firepower. Feeding from a detachable ten-round box magazine and offering unprecedented precision long range heavy caliber firepower, the M82A1 has seen plenty of action in the ongoing Global War on Terror as well as on screens both large and small.
The M82A1 is a deceptively simple gun. The massive barrel and bolt recoil as a unit upon firing. This feature combined with the gun’s unique harmonica muzzle brake makes recoil manageable despite the massive dimensions of the cartridge. I would realistically describe the experience as comparable to firing a 20-gauge shotgun. Found only in the most lavishly stocked gun collections, the Barrett M82A1 is the perfect gift for the well-funded gun nerd on your Christmas list. Buying an M82A1 new with a Leupold Mk IV optic will set you back about ten grand.www.barrett.net
The Thompson Submachine Gun
Designed in the closing days of World War I and transformed into an icon by the likes of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and similar ilk, the Tommy Gun is the crown jewel of any well-heeled gunroom. The Thompson was produced in several variations for both military and Law Enforcement service. While it has been more than seventy years since the Maguire Corporation ceased production of the gun for the government, Thompsons of various flavors are still available for sale at a price.
Original selective fire Colt Tommies in decent condition or sporting a known historical providence cost as much as a house. Modern semiautomatic versions still roll off the lines today at around $1,500 retail. Whether your aspirations settle on modern reproductions or the rarefied originals depends upon how well funded Santa might be this year.www.auto-ordnance.com
World War II Relics
World War II was the bloodiest conflict in all of human history. Most everyone on the planet was affected in one way or another by this global conflict. While the primary players hemorrhaged treasure and sacrificed a generation to the war, the subsequent detritus has been well picked over on Western battlefields. This is not the case in Eastern Europe.
The miracle of global commerce has transformed former Eastern Bloc peasants into entrepreneurs. Nowadays eBay will bring you some of the coolest World War 2-era helmets, deactivated ordnance, and similar battlefield treasures. A decent relic-grade German helmet from Stalingrad or the Kurland Pocket will set you back maybe $100 with another $35 or so for shipping.www.eBay.com
If you’d prefer some World War II gear robust enough to play with www.WorldWarSupply.com is one-stop shopping. Their new-made reproduction helmets, field gear, and re-enactor-grade weapons are reasonably priced and built for hard use. This is the stuff you wished you had back when you were playing Army as a kid.
These guys offer a bewildering array of holsters, magazine pouches, and accessories to support your favorite vintage weapons. They also offer custom-aged German helmets that look like they just stepped off the battlefield. The attention to detail is simply incredible. They even had their chicken wire specially made from 1940’s-era carbon steel so that it would rust a bit when used as a camouflage holder on their vintage reproduction Stalhelms. Their prices are a fraction of that of the fragile originals, and their gear is tough enough to survive rolling around in the dirt.
These are the salad days for toy guns in America. Modern Airsoft guns are realistic and more fun than a barrel of monkeys. The spectrum ranges from inexpensive spring-action single shot handguns you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart to gas-powered examples that will pass for the real thing even up close. The apex predators come from Umarex.
Umarex guns are license-produced copies of the originals. The top of the line models even weigh what the real weapons might. The controls are perfectly reproduced, the bolts cycle as the gun is fired, and magazine capacities demand realistic mag changes. In the case of guns like the HK MP7, this is the closest us mere mortals will ever get to such rarefied iron.
These guns shoot hard enough to torment aluminum beverage cans, but a cardboard box with an old pillow inside makes for a splendid indoor bullet trap. Wear eye protection and watch your range limits and a grand time can be had by all. Basic spring action pistols run about $25 and are a great way to while away a rainy Saturday afternoon. My MP7 gas-powered selective fire rig is a proper training tool and costs a bit north of $300.www.umarex.usa.com
If Santa is feeling really generous this year now is the time to land a GI-surplus Hummer. Uncle Sam is replacing a significant fraction of their older Humvees, and it is, for the time being at least, a buyer’s market. Some of these old trucks are thoroughly ragged out, while others are in splendid shape. They are all sold via online auction and come titled for off-road use only.
Some states don’t allow you to properly title these awesome military trucks at all. Others are quite lenient. My home state of Mississippi falls into the latter category. The process is a bit tedious, but at the end of the day you find yourself in possession of a street-legal military monster that will turn heads around town. The titling process here in Mississippi takes around four to eight months total but is not expensive.
Any conceivable spare parts you might need are available through your local auto parts store or online, and the trucks are easy to maintain. Nothing about the Hummer is comfortable, but they do make an undeniable statement. Whether you want a very inefficient daily driver or the mother of all bugout vehicles now is the time to land a surplus Hummer. Hummers cost the government about $70,000 new. Used trucks in decent shape with an off-road only restriction sell at auction these days for about a tenth of that on up.www.govplanet.com