Duke’s “Keeper List” Is A Very Flexible One!
Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino
Upon learning I have spent my entire life with firearms starting with my first .22 rifle at about age 8, people often ask interesting questions. Interesting as in ones making me pause and think. For instance, recently I was asked a new one, “Which gun would you sell first?”
Naturally, your mind tends to go to the least expensive firearm in the vault. That would be a well-worn S&W Military & Police .38 Special I bought in 1978 for $65. But that’s not one I would sell first. It’s too practical, too accurate with too smooth an action to give up. The gun I would give up first is a Colt Bisley .38 WCF purchased in a fit of exuberance at a Montana gun show. I paid too much for it and never liked the Bisley grip shape anyway. I wish the bucks paid for it were back in my pocket.
Then there is the question often asked, “Which of these guns is the most expensive?” Actually such a question is triggered by the custom rifles with presentation grade wood or handguns with engraving and/or ivory grips. However, the firearm I paid the most for was my WWII vintage German MP40 9mm submachine gun. Yvonne has never, not once, bickered with me about buying guns, but when I told her I was going to buy my first ever full-auto and what it would cost, I did hear a sharp intake of breath followed by a weak, “Well, Duke, you know what you’re doing.” I’m not sure of that, but I do love shooting such a piece of history.
Another common question asked is, “Which gun would you sell last?” That one is impossible to answer. Living in a rural setting, would I keep my Model 700 .222 Remington Magnum as my last firearm? I have shot lurking coyotes with it that were about to make a meal of our pet dogs and cats. Or would it be one of my big-bore Colt single actions, a type I have never been without since buying my first .45 nearly 50 years ago. In 31 years in this home I’ve likely killed two dozen rattlesnakes with some variety of Colt SAA—all with shot loads.
Duke’s all-time most expensive acquisition was his World War II German MP40 SMG.
One morning Yvonne was down by our barn when a skunk came out of the brush, staggering and gnashing its teeth. She pulled her GLOCK out of the pickup and dispatched it with two .40 S&W hollowpoint bullets. The lab at nearby Montana State University verified it was rabid. However, I most certainly would not want any handgun as my sole firearm.
Another time, she was down at the horse corrals and called me at the house, saying casually, “Duke if you step outside be careful. A bear just left here heading your way.” I watched the youngish black bear as he just ambled on by heading up the mountain.
So living where I do now, I think if life’s twists caused me to trim my many guns down to one, it would have to be a shotgun. I don’t even have one I would trust as my only firearm. I would have to give the matter some thought.
Which brings up perhaps the question I’m asked most often by folks viewing the array in my gun vault: “Which one is your favorite?” Talk about something impossible to determine! Heck, sometimes I think that position among my collection changes every day.
Critters like this are why Duke would have a shotgun if limited to a single firearm.
The first firearm Duke would sell if he had his way would be this Colt Bisley (top) .38-40.
I have lived most of my adult life in the area north of Yellowstone National Park with plenty of grizzly bears about. In my younger days whenever away from civilization I usually had an S&W .44 Magnum bought used in 1968. Was it my favorite? Nope. Forty-two years later it was sold to someone who would get some use from it instead of just leaving it unnoticed on a shelf for decades.
In 1985 Yvonne and I saved up enough money for our one-time trip to Africa. There I shot five head of plains game with a Shiloh Model 1874 Sharps .40-70 BN. Later, it was rebarreled to .45-70. Afterwards it was used on whitetail and mule deer, and in 2002 I shot a cow bison with it. Favorite? Nope: when gathering up money to buy my MP40 it was sold without a qualm.
To paraphrase Forest Gump, perhaps favorite is as favorite does. Recently, at a two day BPCR silhouette match I hit 19 out of 20 rams fired from 500 meters. My rifle was another Shiloh Sharps .45-70. It was my favorite that day. Before, when trying out a 1904 vintage Colt SAA .38-40 for the first time, the very first shot hit a 6-inch steel plate dead center from about 20 yards. That Colt was my favorite gun the rest of the day. Another time at a vintage sniper match my Swedish M41b 6.5mm with 4X scope put nine of 10 rounds in a 10-inch circle at 600 yards, winning the match for me. That rifle was my favorite on the drive home. I think you see what I mean.
After all, you should have some flexibility when it comes to favorites!