In my humble opinion a life should contain quests, or in more modern parlance, “bucket list” items. Mine have been rather humble. The two most far-fetched ones I entertained as a kid in the 1950s was flying in a B17 and visiting the island of Iwo Jima. As an older fellow, more prominent quests including finding a wonderful wife, seconded by a nice home with lots of land so I could shoot on it freely. I’m happy to say all those quests have been satisfied.
However, more minor quests have kept me busy unto this day. Those were quests for various firearms, and brothers I have been mostly successful. I’ll detail one right now.
Yahoos Miss Out
Back in my native West Virginia, it seemed older S&W .44s were fairly common in gun stores and pawn shops. I even got to borrow a target-sighted triple lock (S&W Hand Ejector, First Model) for some shooting. Another triple lock with target sights and a 5″ barrel had actually belonged to one of Mingo County’s Hatfield clan and was offered to me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the coin to afford it at the time.
Much later at a Montana gun show, an older gent with whom I was acquainted approached holding a holstered revolver under his arm. I could tell at a glance it was an older Smith & Wesson N-Frame revolver. He said, “I’ve waved this under the noses of several of these yahoo dealers and they have offered me a pittance for it. Are you interested?” I looked the gun over, instantly recognizing it as a target-sighted triple lock with 6 1/2″ barrel. I made him what turned out to be a sufficient offer, he accepted and we both left the gun show happy.
A Day At The Museum
Quest guns can appear unexpectedly. A few years later, I was in a gun store/military museum in Los Angeles of all places. Therein on the used gun shelf was a Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector 2nd Model with fixed sights and a 6 1/2″ barrel. I paid for it and had it shipped to Montana. When lettering it, what did I find? It had been shipped to West Virginia in 1929. With this bit of good luck, my quest then became having Smith & Wesson .44s in all four basic models.
Later, after some diligent searching on the Gunbroker.com auction site, the quest for all four basic permutations of Smith & Wesson .44s was fulfilled. The next one was a Hand Ejector Third Model with fixed sights and 6 1/2″ barrel. It lettered to an army officer based in California in 1939. Finally, after more diligent online searching, a target-sighted Model 1950 Target with 6 1/2″ barrel appeared (the later model number was M24). I nabbed it. Those four big .44 Specials sure look good in a photo!
But — I wasn’t finished. As a teen poring over catalog sections in things like Gun Digest, I took note of another .44 Special Smith & Wesson revolver. It was their N-Frame fixed sight Model 21 which came with 4″, 5″ and 6-1/2″ barrel lengths. Sadly I learned Smith & Wesson discontinued Model 21s, along with several fine N-Frame revolvers, right about the time I discovered them. A further frustration was only 1,200 Model 21s had been made, including those pre-model numbered ones named Model 1950 Military. (S&W adopted model numbers in 1957.) Satisfying this quest seemed unlikely.
Decades passed without ever encountering even one of those Model 21s. Then, in my early 50s, I walked into a gun show in Bozeman, Montana. Upon the first table visited there sat a Model 21 with a 4″ barrel. Its price was steep but I didn’t hesitate. It’s odd how things happen, because within a year I came across two more with 5″ barrels. I bought them too.
So — do all these .44s I quested for sit safe in my gun vault? No, they don’t. Only two remain. They are the triple lock and the Hand Ejector Second Model. Why would I let go of such valued quest objects. Well, questing is an ongoing thing (ailment?). Over the half-century plus of my gun-buying quests arose for Colt SAAs, Winchester lever guns, Sharps single-shot rifles and even World War II full-autos. Sometimes satisfied quest objects must make room for new quest objects.