The Teleology Of
The Gun Nerd

Why we do what we do
; .

The Human Genome Project is the largest collaborative biological research effort in human history. Taking genetic material from four randomly selected donors, HGP researchers developed the most detailed human genomic map ever created, cataloging some three billion separate nucleotides. While the results of this extraordinary undertaking promise to shape the way we treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis and myriad other medical maladies, the true depth of this information is at present unknown. One vexing mystery that has yet to be fully understood is the Gun Nerd Gene (GNG).

Though I’ve never actually seen the Gun Nerd Gene, I know it to be real. If you’re currently clutching this hallowed tome you’ve seen it as well. At least your spouse has. The GNG is the mystic force driving us to devour untold pages of arcane minutiae like ballistic coefficients, bullet weights and muzzle velocities which would render any normal human comatose. Those of us with the GNG spend inordinate amounts of money on anything that appears old, blued and greasy. We also feel the hallowed likeness of John Moses Browning should grace American currency. After a lifetime of living with this condition, I feel like I am qualified to expound on what this quirky little world is really like.


The SP1 AR15 took Will an entire year of working as a janitor in a drug store but he says it was worth it.

Origin Story

I bought my first Daisy BB gun at age seven. My first handgun was a Colt 1851 Navy revolver in kit form bought without my parents’ knowledge at age 13. I shouldn’t have bothered with all the subterfuge. My folks didn’t care. It seems obvious my Gun Nerd Gene came from someplace.

Dad and I stalked game all across the Mississippi Delta. Holidays were never without a wild turkey and I shot enough deer to appreciate I’m not too keen on venison. Along the way I also did my utmost to keep the local water moccasin population in check.
I toiled away after school for a solid year during 10th grade to buy my first AR-15. With my 18th birthday the world broadened just a bit — I could now fill out my own BATF Form 4473.

. is a Pandora’s Box for Gun Nerds. Will’s Bushmaster Arms Pistol is on
the left while the High Standard Model 10B police shotgun is on the right.

The Early Years

The Army put me through college in exchange for the deed to my soul but it left a little extra cash at the end of each semester. Like Alexander or Agamemnon, I set my mind on modest conquests and then moved on once they were secured. The early ’80s were the salad days of gun collecting before gun control became a really serious thing.

I have always collected guns to fill some strange ethereal niche. As a result, my collection is broad but shallow. I know a gent who owns more than a hundred Luger pistols — it’s just his “thing.” By contrast I own three — a 1911 Erfurt, a 1916 Navy and a 1917 Lange Pistole Artillery Luger. Now I have one in each category, I can move on to the next conquest. As I said, broad but shallow.

There was the AR15 meticulously revered like the precious thing it was. I added a Chicom Type 56 folding stock AK ($325 NIB from a stack at a gun show) along with a LAW-12 shotgun (an underappreciated gem). During the era I had very little money so trading was the order of the day. Some trades were great. Most were abysmal. However, I always left with whatever I felt I couldn’t live without.

The HK VP70 (the trigger really sucked) became an FIE TZ75 (the only high-capacity 9mm with a decent trigger I could afford). The TZ75 became a .357 Magnum Desert Eagle (just too freaking cool) which eventually became a NIB Beretta 92. (I’m still a bit embarrassed by it.) Mel Gibson carried one in Lethal Weapon and he was really, really awesome. However, I found despite my amazing new wonder-nine, I was sadly still just some gooby guy


This Colt 1851 Navy .44 in kit form was Will’s first handgun; he finished
it out with hand tools in his dad’s shop.

Everything Changed

At 8 a.m. on my 21st birthday I presented to the office of my local police chief with the Forms 4 for my first two machineguns. The 9mm MAC10 cost $650. The stripped M16 receiver set me back $600. My gun buddies thought I was crazy to drop $600 on something that wouldn’t even shoot. The forms took three months to process back then. Life would never be the same.


Early on, trading was the order of the day. Below, the HK VP70 on the left morphed
into a .357 Magnum Desert Eagle which eventually became a Beretta 92.

A Beretta M9 like this one kept Will company around the world in some of the most wretched places.

The Keys To The Kingdom

In 1991 I published my first gun article in an Army Aviation professional journal. It paid literally nothing. Soon thereafter I penned a piece titled “Class III Bear-be-Gone: NFA Weapons in the Alaskan Interior” in a rag called Machinegun News which has since gone out of business. It discussed using a short-barreled shotgun for bear defense and paid enough to cover the gun’s transfer tax. I don’t know what it’s like to do crack cocaine, but I suspect it was something similar.

For nearly 30 years now I have banged out prose about my peculiar genetic anomaly. I have also always kept a day job to pay the bills. So long as I spend my writing money on stuff I write about, the tax man is happy. It’s a dangerous situation for a guy with the GNG.

A business established with some like-minded pals eventually resulted in a 07/02 manufacturer’s FFL and the gloves truly came off. The first two years saw an orgy of machinegun building. Along the way we developed a niche reputation for building superbly accurate precision rifles and nice sound suppressors. It covers the expenses and leaves us with a little extra left over.


A Canik TP9 along with a pedestrian Palmetto State Armory AR15 parts gun made the cut in Will’s gun collection. This unusual but inexpensive AR was a homeschool project for one of his kids.

Variety Is Indeed The Spice Of Life

I have a friend who has an unfired SP-1 AR-15 from each year of its production ranging from 1964 to 1974. He has a separate example of the 1966-vintage SERIAL 66 wherein the serial numbers were briefly stamped by the machine used for military rifles. The font and layout were different, so it warranted a separate rifle. It’s his thing.

Another pal has a NIB example of each first-run Gen 1 GLOCK 17, 17L and 17L Ported pistol. He acquired the same array of Gen 2s as well. He recently added one of only 30 or so Gen 1 GLOCK 19s ever produced. His GNG is just a bit different from mine.

Warren Buffett is worth a cool $71.5 billion. He could easily afford quite literally anything to include his own modest air force. However, Mr. Buffett does not himself own a luxury yacht. When queried about this he said he doesn’t need a boat because he has friends who own boats. The same could be said of truly high-end gun collections.

If your proclivities range to classic German machineguns then you’d better have deep pockets. Those puppies ain’t cheap. I have a couple, but they took a literal lifetime of saving and scrounging. However, a dear friend has a huge collection of transferable WWII-vintage German automatic weapons. While I don’t get to take them home, I know where he lives and he enjoys visitors — it’s the next best thing!


The first two machineguns Will purchased back in 1987 have aged nicely. The transferable
M16 lower now wears an HK 416 parts kit.

I’ve known hundreds of gun nerds. Without exception each has been respectful, courteous, friendly and safe. A great many don’t bother hunting. We just admire firearms because they are such elegant little machines.

Your collection might entail nothing fancier than a pedestrian Canik TP-9 (an absolutely superb combat handgun, by the way) and an unadorned Palmetto State Armory AR15 parts gun. By contrast, I once met a guy who owns FG42s in both their first and second model configurations as well as an StG-44 with a krummlauf. His gun collection is what would happen if the FBI joined forces with the BATF and the Smithsonian. Regardless, we all start with the same genetic foundation. We’re all just gun nerds.

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