It Can Get Spendy!
Cabin fever is a real ailment, caused by the stress of a hard winter keeping people confined indoors. I know because I’m experiencing it now! Usually our winters are open enough that—with the aid of a heated range house—I still get plenty of shooting done.
Not this year. For at least two months it has been cold and windy, with plenty of snow mixed in. At times, temperatures have remained below zero for days. One night early in February it dropped to 30-below. In my youth, such weather slowed me down a little. Now old enough to qualify for Medicare, and with plenty of arthritis, such frigid conditions stop me cold! (Pun intended.)
Usually I treasure the hours I spend casting bullets or reloading ammunition for any of the 50-odd cartridges I shoot. But now I’m sick of even those pastimes. So I’ve turned to a sure cure for cabin fever blues—I’m questing. For several months I spent nary a penny on firearms or related accessories, nor had I logged onto any firearms auction sites. Cabin fever has caused me to again aid the economy with my gun’riter bucks.
At first, I set about questing for small things: An Italian WWII helmet for my collection and some 1/2-moon clips for my Colt and Smith & Wesson Model 1917 revolvers.
This quest led me to think about a new barrel for the S&W ’17, which I bought in a fit of impetuosity without looking down its barrel closely. Outside it has a nice finish for an almost century-old six-gun, but as it came from Florida, it was evident someone had not taken care of its bore. The salt-laden humidity there had pitted it beyond salvation—it tumbled all lead alloy bullets fired. After a lengthy search, I found a S&W ’17 barrel in very nice condition, complete with “United States Property” stamped underneath.
While thinking of barrels, I decided to replace the barrel on my Czech-made VZ24 8mm Mauser sniper rifle. That rifle has obviously seen considerable use, probably on the Eastern Front of World War II’s immense battles between Germany and the Soviet Union. Not unexpectedly for a rifle with that much exterior wear, combined with so-called corrosive-primed military ammunition, my VZ24’s bore was well-worn and very dark. Such darkness in a bore is the result of having a multitude of fine pits. A replacement barrel, complete with sights, was found with an exterior condition that matched my rifle, but still had a strong, shiny bore.
One good result of Duke’s cabin fever is he found a replacement
barrel for the ruined one on this S&W Model 1917 .45.
Everything shown in this photo— the Luger, helmet and reproduction
holster—were items Duke’s cabin fever led him to seek.
Both the S&W and VZ24 barrels, along with their respective firearms, are now at my gunsmith’s shop. However, that has not stopped the questing!
Just last week I was “phone visiting” with my good friend Bob Glodt of Plainview, Texas, when he dumped this information on me: He now owned a bunch of Luger 9mm pistols. Two are the rare Artillery Model, both in pristine condition.
That did it. That’s all it took. If Bob had two, I needed at least one. Immediately I began a quest for an Artillery Luger. Back in 2012, I had a friend’s Artillery Luger for a few months and admitted to coveting it. With that long barrel and a rear sight with elevation increments to a completely unrealistic 800 meters, it is a fascinating handgun. My friend has several accessories for his, including a holster, the 32-round drum magazine, its special loading tool and the detachable buttstock.
Within days I found my Artillery Luger on an Internet auction site. Its condition is not pristine, some of its blue finish is turning brown and there are spots of tiny pits where metal obviously rested against damp leather in battlefield conditions. I like that, preferring historical use to museum quality. Like most Lugers it was dated—this one “1917.” One other feature that drew me was its British proof marks. Firearms brought into Great Britain must be proofed by the government, so my pet theory is a British officer captured this Luger in France and brought it home with him postwar. (Britain did not begin their still ongoing list of draconian gun laws until the 1920’s, so an officer bringing home a captured handgun is entirely feasible.)
The long Luger arrived and I was more than pleased with it. The first thing I did after unpacking it was fire a few magazines full out the back door. Two different magazines and two different types of factory 9mm ammunition were used. It functioned perfectly with all. Checking its accuracy potential wasn’t much of a worry because its bore condition is beautiful. Still, all those bullets made reasonably close holes in the snow about 50 yards away. (I can’t even get to my shooting house at the time of this writing to try it on paper targets.)
Questing isn’t so easily satisfied, especially since the weather remains rotten. I’ve now ordered a reproduction leather holster for the Artillery Luger, along with a cleaning rod and magazine loading tool. The weekend before my new 9mm arrived, I briefly visited a local gun show and found a German Model 1916 helmet to serve as a photo prop for when Yvonne does her photography magic with the Luger. Also there are things like detachable shoulder stocks and 32-round drum magazines being reproduced. I am far from finished.
Then there is the matter of a military issue Winchester Model 1897 Trench Gun. I’ve never owned one of those either. Or a scoped SVT40 Soviet sniper rifle for that matter. Questing is certainly a cabin fever remedy.
Mike’s note: The SVT40 is on its way as this column is being submitted.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino