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Active duty surplus.

Growing up among World War II and Korean War vets, it was easy to develop an appreciation for surplus arms. Everyone had them. When I stepped onto the "yellow footprints" in 76, I never thought "surplus" would still be on the Table of Equipment, but was surprised at the continuing use of surplus arms throughout my military service.

Sometime in the late 1940s the Department of State had bought S&W Model 10s for embassy guard detachments. Those same revolvers were still in service in 1978 when my tour began in Kabul. Decades of abuse showed in the wobbly cylinders and cranes. This wear wasn't from practice or actual combat, but from decades of bored guards playing quick-draw or spinning the cylinder to pass the time between security patrols. It was a tribute to the design that they lasted at all, and most still had pretty good triggers.

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Our Remington 870P riot guns were new, but on graveyard shift, with a shoot-'em-dead curfew, we turned to something else. Years or perhaps decades before the Marines found the key to the defense attache's arms locker. Among the treasure was a .45 M3 "grease gun." We'd stick a couple 30 round magazines in the thigh pocket and conduct our rounds with the M3 roguishly slung over the shoulder. It may have yielded merely a false sense of security, but it sure added some peace of mind.

Back at the Marine House, there was a small, Dara-made blowback .22LR pistol. It had been sold from one Marine to the other for years, each time for exactly $20. During my tour, the .22 came into my care, and I created covert storage for it inside the cut-out pages of a hard-cover novel. The novel related to the Biblical character Ruth, and the .22 was nicknamed "The Book of Ruth." Considering the possible opposition on a run to the embassy, it offered a false but calming sense of security and I'll bet it's still in the Marine House's library.

My next post, the embassy in Tel Aviv, boasted two pristine Stevens 620 riot guns, complete with ventilated handguards and bayonet lugs. These had been lost to corporate memory until discovered by the company XO. During inspections, the major had a disconcerting habit of finding things we thought had been carefully hidden. On a prior inspection he'd noticed a file safe standing out from the vault wall and grabbed a chair to stand on. Peering carefully into the gap, he noticed things: A Czech zB 26 light machine gun, an Uzi and two Stevens 620s.

The major was a practical man, turning over the full auto stuff to the Israeli government and signing the 620s on as "Special Service" recreational guns. With slings, they were more comfortable to caring on patrol than anything else, and they were more intimidating than the 870Ps. I tried to find bayonets that would fit, but didn't find out until much later that the standard riot gun used a 1917 Enfield bayonet. Probably just as well--I might have cut myself.

During college, I spent a semester of 1981 in Pakistan and Afghanistan, at the time awash in various new and surplus arms. On one ridgeline in the Wuzbin Kwar Valley near Sorobi, I handled a No. 4 Mk 1 rifle marked "Property U.S. Government" on the left wall of the receiver. What a tale that rifle could certainly tell. At the time it was still in first line service with Muj of Gulbaddin Hekmatyar's crew. It may still be in action today, but with which side? Lucky for our troops, 30 years of fighting with Kalashnikovs has reduced the once-accurate Pushtuns to spray and pray.

When Saddam overran Kuwait, I was running a reserve center. The company was activated and when the air war started I was chucked into a replacement company in expectation of heavy casualties. Upon arrival at Camp Lejeune, we were issued with new pistols right out of the box: New in 1944 that is; 1911s of every manufacture, with perfect finish and no dings or scratches. Never were 1911s carried with more elan. We darned near cried when we returned home and they made us turn in our active-duty surplus.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Author:Venola, Richard
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:706
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